As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer step away from leadership roles in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, they will yield to politics and age (82 and 83, respectively) and serve as part of the rank and file.
Each deserves huge thanks from their constituents and their fellow Democrats for their long and exhausting service to our country. They played leading roles in passing transformative legislation, one being Obamacare. Over the years, the tough-minded, effective Pelosi became the Republicans’ favorite target. She was despised and feared. Her relentless style never changed.
Representing San Francisco, Pelosi never strayed far from her roots in Baltimore’s close-knit Little Italy. Her father, the renown Tommy D’Alesandro, Jr., served in Congress and as mayor. Her brother, Tommy, III served one term as Baltimore’s mayor. Speaker Pelosi, a homemaker and political volunteer, began serving in Congress in her 40s.
Her late start did not hold her back from becoming the first female Speaker of the House. She rivaled the legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas as an effective political leader. She withstood personal attacks to become a superior general in marshalling the Democratic caucus to pass federal legislation.
She refused to be bullied by Donald Trump, who failed to threaten her over a budget impasse. She stood up to the feckless Trump, even questioning his mental stability. He was furious. He tangled with a person far more astute and focused than he.
A stunning example of the vitriol aimed at Pelosi is the recent home invasion and assault of her husband, Paul. The perpetrator was looking for the Speaker, as were the Trump-inspired insurrectionists on Jan. 6, 2021.
Success, particularly epitomized by a woman, spurs anger and irresponsible behavior on the part of disenchanted, disruptive and misogynistic American citizens. They represent a dangerous element in our country. They know few bounds of respectable conduct.
Hoyer, starting out in politics as a Maryland state senator and serving as the youngest ever State Senate president, has served in Congress since 1981 and majority leader since 2019. A moderate Democrat who has represented Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland over the years, he has been an immensely successful, behind-the-scenes legislator.
Blessed with an agreeable and accessible persona, Hoyer has gained the respect of all segments of the raucous Congressional Democratic caucus. Simply, Hoyer is a doer, prone to action, not verbiage. He understands how the sausage is made, and when to add Hoyer ingredients.
Many years ago, serving as the Maryland National Guard’s government relations officer, I sought money for a new armory in Hoyer’s district. This was at a time when earmarks were plentiful, or at least acceptable. Hoyer’s staff arranged for us to use excess land owned by the Federal Drug Administration, as well as funding inserted in the Post Office appropriation bill. The machinations seemed effortless.
Whenever I’ve seen Hoyer, he is always friendly and sincere. He eschews any sense of inflated importance. He loves Maryland, and he loves Congress.
Maryland will lose two allies occupying influential leadership positions. In realpolitik, a loss such as this matters to a state. Favorable actions, as in relocation of federal agencies or appropriation of funds for a large public works project, become more difficult. A powerful “angel” can determine success.
Pelosi and Hoyer are ready to return to the back bench. Younger politicians are primed for battle on the front lines of the House of Representatives. Styles will differ, as will results.
Speaker Pelosi set a high mark, one that will be difficult to match. The same can is true about Leader Hoyer, a top-flight doer. The new era of contesting battles of wills begins.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.