Leaders crack whip on loyalty
Democrats make an example of Collin Peterson
By Hans Nichols
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was harshly upbraided Monday night by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and other members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee for failing to be a “team player,” signaling that the Democratic leadership intention to impose a strict regimen of party discipline in the 109th Congress.
Party leaders dressed down Peterson as he sought to persuade the 50 members of the steering committee to make him the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. Hoyer and Miller directed much their ire on Peterson’s Medicare vote, when Peterson was one of 16 Democrats to side with Republicans in the tightest roll call in recent memory. It is a strong indication that Democratic leaders will insist upon party unity as Republicans plan to reform Social Security, the other massive entitlement program that has been a mainstay of the Democratic coalition.
Peterson was one of five Democrats to vote for the House GOP drug bill in 2000 and one of eight to vote for the Republican Medicare bill in 2002.
He stands next in seniority on the agricultural panel to replace former Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), who was defeated in November. But questions about Peterson’s party loyalty, both his voting record and his lackadaisical fundraising, have forestalled what would have been an otherwise routine promotion to be the Democrats’ top lawmaker on issues affecting rural — and often red — America.
“There is no doubt that there’s a lot of resentment about how Collin Peterson has conducted himself in his time in Congress. It’s more than just the Medicare vote,” a senior Democratic aide said.
A Democratic leadership aide said: “Members were upset when they learned that [Rep. F. Allen] Boyd [D-Fla.] co-sponsored a Republican Social Security bill and are tired of some members of the caucus not pulling their weight. And the Steering Committee reflected that.”
By making Peterson sweat out his committee position, Democratic leaders hoped to send a clear message to their caucus that they would demand a higher degree of party loyalty in the coming Congress, several leadership aides said.
“Why not just not pay your dues, buck the party on important votes and hold press conferences with Republicans to make your election a cakewalk and then still get your committee?” another Democratic leadership aide said.
Both Hoyer and Miller declined to comment on the specifics of their closed-door rebuke of Peterson before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. “Issues were raised,” Hoyer said, declining to elaborate any further.
Miller, who serves as co-chairman of the Steering and Policy Committee and is one of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) closest confidants, said, “I raised some concerns in the context of the meeting.”
Peterson acknowledged that Hoyer and Miller raised a variety of concerns and pressed him on why he sided with Republicans on the Medicare vote and then made several public appearances with GOP leaders touting the merits of plan his House leaders had universally criticized.
“We’re going through the process,” Peterson told The Hill. “I told them I didn’t regret that vote because it was good for districts like mine.
“[Rep.] Earl Pomeroy [D-N.D.] won his seat with 10 percent more than he should have because he voted for it. That’s a fact.”
Peterson said that he won his own race with “65 or 66 percent” and that “I probably would have won by the same” regardless of his vote on the drug bill.
Some Democrats who voted for the Medicare bill said they did do because it provided billions in Medicare payments to rural healthcare providers.
In addition to his Medicare vote, Peterson has been widely criticized for failing to pay his party dues on time in the last cycle and for his general lack of interest in raising money for fellow Democrats in previous years. Peterson eventually paid part of his dues in October and roughly half of his $70,000 requirement after the election.
“I paid what I was supposed to. At the time they asked me, I didn’t have the money,” Peterson said.
“My money always comes in late,” he said.
Peterson’s fate before the next ranking member is chosen is still very much in doubt, and he was intensely lobbying his colleagues to support him. Aides described him as very apologetic at Monday’s night’s meeting.
“Had the vote been taken last night, there’s a good chance that he would have lost,” the senior Democratic aide said.
The steering committee is set to reconvene this morning, and the full caucus is expected to vote on Peterson later in the day. “You’ll see a vote in caucus,” a Democratic staffer said. “There will be some ‘no’ votes,” another Democratic staffer added.
The Democrats actually believe that the solution to their political problems is to stand their ground and tow as liberal a line as possible. The radical left is tightening their grip on the Democratic party, and that will push them deeper into insignificance.
Let them send the message that there is no place for moderate Democrats in the party. Fuck 'em!
Do you think anybody thinks I'm a failure because I go home to Starla at night?