Pelosi Needs An Agenda for 100 Weeks, Not 100 Hours

Nancy Pelosi's first legislative move as Speaker of the House is a mistake. A big one. She is going to cram all the feel-good, easy-to-pass, politically popular legislation she can think of into her first hundred hours without any idea of what she's going to do for the next hundred weeks.

Pelosi's hundred-hour agenda is a smart one; it's the hundred hours that's the problem. The biggest minimum wage increase in history is long overdue and very popular with voters. Why cram it into a frenzied legislative session with a bunch of other bills that will have a claim on headline space? Why not let the minimum wage increase have a hundred hours all to itself? Why not let each of the Pelosi agenda items have their own week in the media sun? Each of those weeks should be chosen carefully to maximize the political benefit with voters. That's the way successful Speakers used to play their winning hands. If they were going to cut interest rates on student loans in half, they would do it in June or September when the interested parties are intensely focused on getting out of or going back to school. Pelosi should be trying to find the right week or two for each of her easy agenda items, which is admittedly difficult in a year when the Iraq war/occupation/troop surge can dominate news coverage at any time.

What's the rush? The Senate is not going to pass any of Pelosi's agenda very quickly, and the president will probably veto some of it -- like increased stem cell research -- so none of this is going to become law in a hundred hours.

After her first hundred hours, Pelosi will have 96 news weeks left to manage before the next Congressional election. She needs legislative cards to play in 2008, preferably easy, popular ones. If she uses every one of those in her first hundred hours, she will be foolishly counting on voters to have very, very long memories.