Diary

Nancy to Rahmbo: Keep Your Hands to Yourself

You have to hand it to Barack Obama: he can separate the wheat from the chaff. So rather than bring Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi into his administration, he selected Tom Daschle and Rahmbo. In each case he eschewed the titular leaders with a reputation for being somewhat hamhanded, in favor of the shrewder powers behind the throne. Both Emanuel and Daschle can be counted on to reach out to their former colleagues, and line up votes for Obama’s agenda, without unwelcome interference from the elected leaders of the party.

Pelosi apparently recognizes that Rahmbo is a threat to her power over her conference, so she’s calling him out:

In talks with Emanuel and others, sources say, Pelosi has “set parameters” for what she wants from Barack Obama and his White House staff — no surprises, and no backdoor efforts to go around her and other Democratic leaders by cutting deals with moderate New Democrats or conservative Blue Dogs.

Specifically, Pelosi has told Emanuel that she wants to know when representatives of the incoming administration have any contact with her rank-and-file Democrats — and why, sources say.

This has the potential to cause significant friction down the road. Emanuel may or may not intend to keep Pelosi abreast of ‘any contacts with rank and file Democrats,’ but it’s certain that he won’t be able to do so. The White House Office of Legislative Liaison will be in contact with the rank and file dozens of times a day. The contacts will be too numerous to disclose, and Pelosi won’t mind — until the first time she sees her control threatened by White House influence. Then she will have no trouble pointing out — correctly — that Emanuel has not lived up to his pledge.

Expect something similar on the Senate side — particularly with regard to health care. It’s likely that Tom Daschle, Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy will be driving the health care train, with Harry Reid acting mostly as a spectator. Given the egos involved, that would be difficult for any Senator. But if health care is seen as moving successfully, Daschle is likely to take on a continuing role in lobbying his former colleagues. That too, is likely to be an ongoing source of friction.