Governing is Hard

And it’s even harder when you make impossible promises:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is discovering the cold truth about governing with a slim majority: It’s much easier to promise behavioral change for Congress than to deliver it.

Pelosi vowed that five-day workweeks would be a hallmark of a harder-working Democratic majority. So far, the House has logged only one. Lawmakers plan to clock three days this week.

The speaker has denied Republicans a vote on their proposals during congressional debates — a tactic she previously declared oppressive and promised to end. Pelosi has opened the floor to a Republican alternative just once.

Pelosi set a high standard for herself when she pledged to make this “the most ethical Congress in history” — a boast that was the political equivalent of leading with her chin. And some critics have been happy to hit it.

She is drawing fire for putting Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who had $90,000 in alleged bribe money in his freezer, on the Homeland Security Committee. And The Washington Post reported during the weekend that she is helping chairmen raise money from donors with business before their committees.

It’s much harder to be the majority party than the minority party. As the minority party, all you need to do is block legislation, and even if you can’t, you mostly get a pass. The expectations are very low.

On the other hand, as the governing party, you are expected to work wonders. The problem for Pelosi and the other Democrats is that she must walk a tight rope: her base is much more liberal than the general public. She must try to bridge the gap by providing for her base without alienating the moderates that gave her the majority. She accomplished this with the minimum wage increase, but it will get much harder. It’ll be interesting to see how she does.

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