The Pelosi approach: Go get the votes

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Guest columnist

What’s happened to the decisive, conservative and determined leadership we saw that resulted in Republicans taking majority control of the state House in the November 2016 election and then passing monumental legislation during the first week of the 2017 session that brought more positive change to our commonwealth in a week than their mushy entitlement-minded predecessors had done in a century?

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I’m scolded whenever I reminisce about that week’s success.

“You can’t expect us to do that during every session,” the scolders claim. “Those are issues we worked on for years; they were teed up and ready to go.”

Translated: Those issues were easy; you can’t expect such timely results for citizens and taxpayers when it comes to getting the hard stuff done.

Even if that hard stuff – like dealing with a drowning pension system and adding a room onto Kentucky’s wobbly education structure that allows opportunities for poor kids to escape failing schools and attend private ones – has set perched on the tee through debates and union-led opposition for years upon years?

Frankfort’s current environment is a breeding ground for both true leadership and momentum-killing political atrophy.

Former state Sen. Joe Bowen, a recently retired Owensboro Republican, offers a stark example of seizing opportunities to demonstrate true political courage and leadership amongst the current mire of gridlock.

Bowen while State and Local Government Committee chairman shepherded pension-reform legislation through the Senate with great even-handed resolve, despite not having much of a cavalry behind him.

Then, fulfilling his promise to term-limit himself, announced he wouldn’t run again.

Such political courage by Bowen, who soldiered on in spite of the political Left’s vicious verbal attacks and demonstrations occurring in his committee room, isn’t currently the norm among the GOP in Frankfort — especially in the House — despite the fact that for years the now-majority-then-minority party bosses have promised change if voters handed them the keys.

Not only did voters give them the majority, they gave them the supermajority – twice!

And not only did voters give the GOP the House, they gave them the governorship and strengthened their control of the Senate.

Isn’t this the political makeup they claimed for years is needed in order to get the hard stuff done?

In introducing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the 2019 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award recipient, John Schlossberg, the 35th president’s grandson, related how she rounded up the votes needed to pass big government’s bailout of financial institutions in 2008.

Schlossberg recalled how just before that vote Pelosi told her caucus: “The American people sent us here to do a job for them, and that we must do. We will vote today, and I don’t want to hear how you cannot support this bill because you may lose your seat in Congress. That is not why we were sent here.”

Despise Pelosi’s policies but recognize political leadership that doesn’t just sit around and wait on votes but goes and gets them.

This practice gets emulated by leaders, including committee chairmen, in the Kentucky House, who don’t just wait on votes for pension reform and school choice; they go and get them.

It also can be emulated by new Republican legislators who aren’t committee chairmen but hail from rural areas where bureaucrats running the local school system — often the largest employer — threaten them with political opposition and backlash if they support hard reforms.

The Pelosi approach as employed by conservatives concedes: We came here to do — not keep — a job that public-education bureaucrats and union bosses will never support us in doing.

In the process, maybe House leaders could round up a cavalry and some votes for those newer legislators with the courage to do something in the legislature besides introducing meaningless resolutions.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. He can be reached at and @bipps on Twitter.