Pelosi may enter history as one of the great House speakers, according to scholars





In the tense hours Sunday leading up to the House vote on a historic healthcare bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took time to call the former president of Notre Dame, Father Theodore Hesburgh.

The House Democrats' leader was not seeking spiritual guidance. What she wanted was Hesburgh to help lock up the vote of Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from South Bend, Ind., who was wavering over the abortion issue.

Donnelly ultimately pressed the "yes" button late Sunday night.

The incident, one of scores on the road to the Democrats' healthcare victory, illustrates that Pelosi -- long the target of Republican attacks -- is beginning to play the game as well as powerful former speakers such as legendary Masters of the House "Tip" O'Neill and "Mr. Sam" Rayburn....

"She may get a stellar entry in the history books, but that entry will not include the word 'bipartisan,' " said John J. Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College....

"There is nothing to strengthen a politician like a big victory," said Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University....

"Great past speakers like Rayburn and O'Neill became great not by winning one vote but by parlaying victories into sustained policy accomplishments and by using them to cement their party's hold on the House," said Donald F. Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

"Has she helped the Democrats take the first big step toward a sustained majority?" he asked. "Or will resurgent Republicans use the vote to clobber the Democrats in the midterm election?"...



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