House Republicans, hoping to put Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) back on defense, are weighing whether to take another run at a resolution calling for an investigation into her allegations that the CIA lied to Congress about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques.
Several GOP sources say minority lawmakers are looking at how to best keep Pelosi in the hot seat, just as she was when Congress left town for its weeklong recess on May 21. Atop the list of options is to introduce another privileged resolution similar to the one Republicans offered prior to the Memorial Day recess. That resolution could come this week.
“This is a real issue that needs to be looked into,— said one GOP source. “Do we just discount what [the CIA] tells us now?—
The House voted 252-172 on May 21 to table a GOP resolution that would have added a select subcommittee of the Intelligence Committee to review Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA misled Congress about the use of advanced interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s first term.
Still, one GOP aide said Republicans need to be careful not to overplay their hand.
“We are not likely to win back the majority because people are sitting around their dinner table talking about Nancy Pelosi,— the aide said. “But this is a real chink in the Speaker’s armor, and now a part of her narrative, which not only hurts her, but her entire conference.—
This Republican said that while the spotlight on Pelosi may fade as major legislative priorities such as health care reform and energy legislation heat up on the House floor, the issue is likely to resurface as Members bring up the use of enhanced interrogation tactics or the closure of the detainment facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
“She’s part of that narrative now,— the aide said. “I don’t think the story is going away until she puts an end to it.—
The strategy could get complicated, however.
Republicans may want to shift their focus away from the Pelosi CIA flap and onto broader Democratic ethical troubles surrounding the now-defunct lobbying firm PMA Group and its ties to senior appropriators. On Friday, Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) acknowledged his offices and some employees had been subpoenaed by federal investigators as part of a grand jury probe of PMA.
But last week, Republicans were focused on Pelosi. GOP leaders encouraged Members to talk about the issue in the talking points section of their Memorial Day district recess packet. And the National Republican Congressional Committee announced last Thursday it would begin a multimedia assault on several vulnerable Democrats who voted to table the Republican resolution forcing an inquiry into her claim that the CIA lied to Congress.
The Speaker was traveling for much of the recess, leading a Congressional delegation to China. That, coupled with her decision two weeks ago to rebuff any more questions on the CIA matter, helped keep the issue largely out of the headlines.
Senior Democratic aides dismissed Republican plans to try to keep the controversy alive as an overreach on a story that has run out of steam.
“Most people are going to look at this and say it’s the same old Washington nonsense we voted against in 2008,— one senior Democratic aide said. The aide pointed to the controversial Republican National Committee Web ad titled “Pelosi Galore— and argued that the GOP risked alienating independent female voters, especially as conservative groups ramp up attacks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami called it a distraction.
“Clearly what the American people want to hear about is issues that affect their lives — health care, energy and creating jobs,— he said. “This is nothing more than a transparent attempt by the Republicans to score political points, and it’s a diversion from completing the work that the American people are demanding we do on these critical fronts.—
Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.