The first female Speaker’s famous iron grip on her Caucus has been shaken lately by another woman.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made passing a jobs agenda her top priority this year, but an anti-deficit insurgency led by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), the administrative co-chairwoman of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, has forced Pelosi to scale back her ambitions [Steven T. Dennis, "Herseth Sandlin Goes to War as New Blue Dog Voice," Roll Call, 2010.07.01].
Fellow Dems view SHS as a woman of steel in her own right... and not just planless sloganeering obstructionist as her Republican challenger would likely be in Washington:
“Stephanie is a star,” Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) said. “She’s come into her own. She’s got much greater confidence and a steelier backbone.”
"That’s what a good legislator does — she speaks truth to power and she doesn’t shy away from that,” said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who represents Blue Dogs in leadership meetings. “It’s never easy to stand up to the Speaker and the Majority Leader,” he said. “You have to learn to get your sea legs, and she has learned that role.”
Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson praised Herseth Sandlin as “a breath of fresh air” and said that although they sometimes disagree, she’s still looking for ways to get something done.
“She’s not a ‘just say no’ person. She’s looking for a third way,” the Connecticut lawmaker said. “That’s been her M.O. since she got here” [Dennis, 2010]
Of course, the Honorable Congresswoman from South Dakota does vote with Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic majority 92% of the time, as she did Wednesday evening on the financial sector reform reconciliation bill. Sure, Kristi, go after that one. Tell South Dakotans that reforming Wall Street is a terrible idea. Tell South Dakotans, "Wall Street got us into this recession; Wall Street can get us out!"
On voting with the party: OpenCongress.org says that when Speaker Pelosi votes, SHS votes with her 84% of the time, significantly below the average of 94% for voting similarity among all House Dems. SHS votes with Republican Majority leader John Boehner 50% of the time. She votes with my man and model Democrat Dennis Kucinich 86% of the time.