As everyone's heard by now, the House climate and energy bill passed last week by a narrow 219-212 margin. And by all accounts, Nancy Pelosi's arm-twisting skills were one major reason the controversial bill eked through, as she worked overtime exhorting colleagues to vote for the thing. Here's a typical anecdote from Politico:
One of Pelosi's first targets was Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a key fence-sitter who wanted more money generated from the carbon trading to be directed to the research and development of green technology.
Pelosi talked to him again and again, but he wouldn't budge. Her message to him was the same as it was to others: It wasn't worth voting against the bill because of what wasn't in it. According to witnesses, Pelosi perched herself on the arm of Holt's chair and went nose to nose with him for a half-hour warning him that his no vote could scuttle the entire climate change effort — and that liberals would have another chance to make their case once the bill came back from the Senate.
Around 2 o'clock, he became a "yes."
You can find similar tales in this colorful Hill piece. At one point, Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett ignored personal appeals from the White House before Pelosi convinced him to vote yes. Another Texas Dem, Ciro Rodriguez, told Pelosi he'd vote yes, voted no, and then had to sprint out of the chamber to avoid her wrath.
So... next question. Is there a Pelosi-type figure in the Senate? This CQ profile of Harry Reid suggests maybe not:
Reid says he expects the tactic of gentle persuasion to work best, given the size of his Senate Democratic flock and the political divergences within it. "I don't dictate how people vote," he said in an interview this month. "If it's an important vote, I try to tell them how important it is to the Senate, the country, the president ... But I'm not very good at twisting arms. I try to be more verbal and non-threatening. So there are going to be—I'm sure—a number of opportunities for people who have different opinions not to vote the way that I think they should. But that's the way it is. I hold no grudges."
It's not clear Reid's methods are totally ineffective, or—maybe a better way of putting it—that giving everyone the Pelosi treatment would work as well in the Senate. But the contrast in styles is certainly striking.