Democratic Congressional Insiders Lukewarm on Leadership
The Democratic members of Congress surveyed for this week's National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll weren't exactly overflowing with praise for their leaders. Asked to grade the performances of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic Congressional Insiders gave them an average of a B- and a C+ respectively, not much higher than they graded the leaders from the Republican Party. Republican Insiders, however, were more polarized, giving significantly higher marks to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell than they did to their Democratic counterparts.
|Grade (A+ through F) the performances so far this year of these congressional leaders:|
|Methodology: Respondents provided letter grades for each congressional leader. Those grades were then assigned a numerical value on a four-point scale. The scores were averaged and the result was assigned a letter grade.|
Boehner drew plaudits both genuine and grudging from the Congressional Insiders. Republican Insiders praised his handling of a conference with a large proportion of freshmen lawmakers. "Boehner has been adroit in guiding a fractious young majority," said one Republican member.
Some Democratic Congressional Insiders acknowledged similar opinions. "Given the factions in his caucus and a No. 2 laying down banana peels in his path, it's testament to his skill [that] he's still the leader," said one Democratic lawmaker.
"Boehner is riding a tiger," said another, "and hasn't been eaten yet."
Though Pelosi's overall grade from Democrats was just above middling, she drew praise for performing the fundamentals of her leadership position.
"She has no cards," said one Democratic member, "but she has out-raised Republicans for the next election, recruited better candidates, and raised the ratings of Democrats even though the Democratic president is a disaster."
Some Republicans also gave Pelosi credit for her role so far this year. "She has kept a relatively low profile," said one, "and has managed to unify her conference on key votes."
But most Republicans felt Pelosi's performance earned barely-passing grades. Explained one Republican member: "Her unwillingness to step down after the 2010 elections divided and demoralized her caucus and gave the GOP a foil for 2012."
Reid came in for some of the harshest criticism from both sides of the aisle.
"It's hard to give Majority Leader Reid credit for passing anything worthwhile, and he's failed to close his ranks when it counts," said a Republican Congressional Insider. Another complained, "Leader Reid has single-handedly turned the Senate into a legislative cul-de-sac."
Democratic Insiders were also critical, even as they acknowledged the constraints within which Reid is working. "[He] looks weak," said one Democratic member. "Maybe the Senate rules are rigged against anything happening in this environment, but it always looks like McConnell is one step ahead."
Another Democratic lawmaker was more blunt. "Reid is proving he's as ineffective with 53 votes as he was with 60."
Begrudgingly, Democrats gave McConnell credit for wielding his minority power in the Senate. "Grumpy old man who gives the country the creeps still scores wins for the Republican minority," said one Democratic member about the Minority Leader.
"McConnell is as effective as he is devious and disingenuous," said another.
Republicans were more full-throated in their praise. "McConnell is ably holding the line with and for House Republicans," argued a Republican member of Congress. "He's done well to hold his conference together, and he has avoided the traps Senate Democrats are laying."
Another added, "Wily and tough, his only real mistake was saying out loud what most Republicans believe -- defeating Obama is the No. 1 political objective."
Still, at least one Democrat remained unimpressed, even as he acknowledged McConnell's successes. "His only goal is to stop the Senate from doing anything useful, so it's a low bar and easy to grade."