At Thursday’s White House meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid out in stark terms the awful economic repercussions of allowing the debt ceiling to lapse. Everyone in the room agreed that defaulting on U.S. debt would be disastrous and that something must be done. At that point, Nancy Pelosi asked: Why couldn’t the debt ceiling be decoupled from deficit reduction?
Her query, after so many weeks of reports and talks centered on deficit reduction tied to a debt ceiling deal, visibly surprised some leaders in the room, several Republican and Democratic sources say. Obama politely informed the House Minority Leader, those same sources say, that that train had left the station weeks ago.
…if it had happened to anybody else except the House Minority Leader. As it is, it’s a glaring (or entertaining) reminder of why former Speakers of the House typically, you know, leave after they’ve been repudiated. The woman has less power now than she did as House Minority Leader in 2005, when both Congress and the White House were held by Republicans; when a politician slips down from the pinnacle of power to his/her old position, that politician has by definition demonstrated an essential weakness. Expecting other politicians not to note that, and act accordingly, is… foolish.
Seriously: efforts (like Time’s) to pretend to the contrary, it remains true that Nancy Pelosi is now a minor player in the legislative games being played right now. Her second-in-command Steny Hoyer honestly has more relevance, because Hoyer represents the portion of the Democratic caucus who can sell their votes for a price that the Republican House majority might conceivably want to pay. Put another way: Boehner has perhaps some use for Hoyer’s faux-moderates; Pelosi’s hardcore liberals aren’t worth the cost of doing business with.
But, hey, far be it from me to criticize the stupid leadership moves of my political opponents.