|UND political scientist lauds Rep. Nancy Pelosi's victory|
A cheering chorus of citizens, leaders, and lawmakers celebrated this week when Rep. Nancy Pelosi claimed the gavel as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman in that role and the first Democrat for 12 years. Pelosi, from California, now is third in the presidential succession, right after the vice president and assumes one of the most high-profile spots in U.S. politics.
“This is clearly a historic event with enormous political ramifications,” says UND political scientist Mark Jendrysik, who chairs the department of political science. “First and foremost, it’s an enormous achievement for women.”
But, says Jendrysik, “It’s important to remember that the President still retains great power over the legislative process whether through the use of the veto, or by working with the Republican minority.”
So, what will the Democrats do?
“First, they will do some easy things like change the ethics rules for Congress regarding lobbyists,” observes Jendrysik, who, among other areas of interest, is a published observer of the American political and cultural scenes. “Second, they will send President Bush a number of bills which have very strong support among the public.” This includes legislation that would boost the national minimum wage, promote stem cell research, cut student loan interest rates, and trim Medicare drug prices.
Jendrysik predicts that such moves —- all strongly opposed by largely Republican interests —- will slam the White House hard.
“Most likely, Bush will go along with the first and third choices and threaten vetoes of two and four,” he says. “Of course, since the Republicans have the power to filibuster legislation in the Senate, the Democrats might not be able to hold all their members on every issue.” So, Jendrysik predicts, congressional proposals for stem cell research and Medicare drug cost cuts aren’t likely to make it to the President’s Oval Office desk.
Jendrysik sees other priorities -— such as restoring pay/go rules in the budget, adopting the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, and, of course, funding for the war in Iraq —- as more problematic. At this point, he says, it’s anybody’s guess how the political winds will blow on those issues.
Also, Jendrysik forecasts that Congress, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, isn’t likely to dump earmarks because lawmakers like being able to get money for projects back home.
“Also, I don't think the Democrats will do much to modify the Patriot Act, although they might challenge the President on his claims of almost unlimited Presidential power in the war on terror, such as detaining citizens with trial and various surveillance issues,” says Jendrysik, who is set to publish his second book, Modern Jeremiahs: Contemporary Visions of American Decline, next year.
Jendrysik expects reform-minded Demoncrats to launch investigations of Iraq war profiteering by some contractors and investigation of the war itself.
“I believe that we will see some action on ethics and a few popular bills passed quickly,” he says. “But there will be a very major battle over this year’s budget and over the deficit and taxes.”
Finally, Jendrysik thinks that the President is going to have to decide whether to work with the Democrats or fight them at every turn.
“Since he can’t run for re-election in 2008, he may decide that confrontation gains him nothing,” he observes. “Or he might decide that confrontation might give the Republicans political capital for the 2008 election.”
A Massachussetts native, Dr. Jendrysik has been at UND since 1999 and is associate professor and chair of the political science; his teaching interests include ancient and modern political thought, utopian political ideas, ethics, public opinion, and American government. For a more detailed bio, check http://www.business.und.edu/homepages/mjendrysik/