Democrats Fed Up With Yielding to GOP Rules
By Dan Morgan and Helen Dewar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 12, 2004; Page A15
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who leads Democrats in the House, and Rep. David Dreier (Calif.), the Republican chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, are on friendly terms despite political differences.
Dreier was one of the few Republicans to attend a party for Pelosi after she was elected House minority leader in November 2002. "I was very proud that the first minority leader was from my state," he said.
But that didn't stop Pelosi from roughing up Dreier during a contretemps on the House floor June 25. Behind the attack was rising anger among House Democrats about Republican use of the procedural power of the Rules Committee to prevent or limit amendments and debate on key bills.
In that case, Pelosi was protesting Dreier's refusal to let the House debate a Democratic amendment that she said would have helped Californians "get the refunds they deserve after they were ripped off by Enron and others."
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and several other western Democrats had wanted to attach the amendment to the bill funding the Energy Department in 2005. It would have required the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to let states participate in price-fixing claims against energy companies, possibly paving the way for consumers to get refunds on their utility bills.
But Dreier said the amendment would interfere with moves underway in California courts, and was not in order on an appropriations bill.
Pelosi then took to the House floor to hammer the decision, suggesting it went against the interests of Dreier's home-state constituents, and repeatedly refusing to yield time to him to respond.
"Will the gentlewoman yield?" Dreier asked.
"I think that you are going to have to get time from your own [Republican] chairman," Pelosi replied.
"Well, I was happy to yield earlier to the gentlewoman," he said. "For 10 seconds, and I yielded more time to you," Pelosi shot back.
The attack on Dreier, using the Eshoo amendment, was no accident. It had been carefully planned in the minority leader's office, according to House Democratic aides. Since taking charge of the minority, Pelosi has tried to sharpen the party's message and instill unity, for which she has received good marks.
"Nancy's very standup. She's been terrific," said Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.).
For his part, Dreier was philosophical. "I served in the minority for 14 years, and I certainly respect attempts by members of the minority to create division and attack those in leadership," he said. But he added, "I think you can be a street fighter and still be civil."
The partisan testiness increased last week after Republicans prolonged a scheduled 15-minute vote by 23 minutes to corral GOP lawmakers who had sided with Democrats on an amendment to water down the USA Patriot Act. The amendment lost on a 210 to 210 tie.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company