Institutions

Pelosi and the Power of the Speakership

May 24 '10

My thanks to the Monkey Cage for giving me the chance to guest-blog on a topic of particular interest to me: party leadership in the U.S. Congress and, in particular, the Speaker of the House.

A lot of folks are paying attention to the office of Speaker these days, thanks to its current occupant, Nancy Pelosi – the first woman (and the first Italian-American and Californian) Speaker who is widely credited for pushing major health care reform through Congress. But most of the talk has been about whether Pelosi is among the “greatest,” “most powerful,” or “most successful” speakers in history (as Sarah Binder astutely predicted on an earlier Monkey Cage post). While this may be a fun topic to discuss around the D.C. water-cooler, it (a) has been debated with little historical perspective, and (b) has ignored other interesting and provocative questions raised by Pelosi’s leadership.

In my future posts, I’ll provide some historical context for understanding and judging the Pelosi speakership, and also explore what Pelosi’s actions tell us about leadership in Congress more generally. I’ll offer answers to the following questions:

# Was Pelosi’s leadership on health care as impressive as pundits claim, especially when compared with what other speakers have accomplished?
# If Pelosi is as powerful a speaker as people say, why is she so powerful? Does her influence tell us anything more generally about what makes congressional leaders powerful or weak?
# What might the future hold for Pelosi and the office of Speaker? What vulnerabilities, if any, does Pelosi have?

To answer these questions, I will draw from some of my own research, including my new book on the Speaker, as well as my recent thoughts and observations about the Pelosi speakership.

So, on to the Speaker!

Next Post: Evaluating Pelosi’s Leadership on Health Care