Comparing Leadership Styles of Speaker Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi


Nancy Pelosi is a Democrat and the current speaker of the United States House of Representatives. After the election of a Democratic majority to the United States House of Representatives in the 110th congress cemented way for Pelosi of California to become the first woman speaker (Dwyre, 269).

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Newt Gingrich is a former house speaker and a Republican by party.

The period in which he was the speaker was marked by his representation of the face of public that was the mark of the administration of Bill Clinton opposition by the Republicans. A few months after the 1998 elections in which the Republicans lost fives seats of the congress, he announced his resignation both as a member of Congress and also as the speaker. After his resignation he undertook the career of a consultant and also as a political analyst, a career that he has held since then. He has also written that which are concerned with governance (Fenno, 117).

Leadership style of Republican under Gingrich

One of the major rallying cries of revolution of Republicans was the institutional reform of the chamber. The Republican leaders while in the minority had decried what they viewed as the corrupt practices of the Democratic leaders. They guaranteed that they would overhaul the management structure of the house once they would assume office. In 1995, Speaker Newt Gangrich instituted a number of reforms that overhauled the balance of power between the party leaders, committee and sub-committee chairs as well as backbenchers (Dwyre, 269).

Conditional party agreements

Most Republicans were unhappy of the powers that were vested on the chairmanship. On the contrary, the Democrats were using the seniority system to keep a strangle hold on most of the important committee chairmanship. The conservative Democrats used this power to block liberal legislations favored by a majority of the Democratic assembly. This required some steady fast reforms. The underlying principles were to shift powers away from the committee chairs; instead, powers would be vested in the party leadership and also distributed more broadly among the members (Fenno, 39).

Party leaders

The reform was created to develop a steering and policy committee which was to take over the task of making committee assignments and selecting committees chairs. Additionally, they would make policy recommendations for considerations by the committee. Moreover, the speaker was given the power to select the members of the rules committee, a body that had been significant to the success of the conservative Democrats in bottling up legislations. The speaker was subsequently given more discretion referring bills to the committee. Newt Gingrich was thus empowered to grant the bills multiple referrals in order to guarantee that no rebel committee chair could block the will of the assembly (Fenno, 93).

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Committee chairs

The 1975 major goal was to take power away from the committee chairs that had the power to negotiate the party’s agenda. Similarly, the Rules committee was required to make any amendments for the floor that were to be supported by at least fifty members of the party.

Sub-committee chairs

The reforms of the 1975 strengthened the powers of the sub-committee chairs via the Subcommittee Bill of Rights. The sub-committee chairs were granted more independence since they would be chosen by seniority, and not by the head of the full committee. Furthermore, they were assured to hire their own staff and finally, there was a clarification of their jurisdictions to give them more certain authority over given policy areas (Fenno, 123).

The Republican Revolution

For the first time in forty years, the Republicans organized the House of Representatives. They passed a new set of rules that established a conditional party government. They gave the speaker a great deal of power. During Gingrich’s period as a speaker, he had the virtual Blanche authority to lead the caucus as he fit. The Republican Party placed an eight year term for the speaker. However, there have been major reforms that have taken place since 2003 (Mayhew, 96).

Effectiveness of the House Republican leadership

It is always very difficult to measure the success of a party leadership; however, scholars of party leadership in the House of Representatives have used different indicators to measure the effectiveness of party leadership. These indicators often involve combination of measures of party unity and partisanship. The logic being to measure the how well the popular party sticks together on votes where the two parties disagree. Regrettably, there are times when a party does not need any unity to gets its way. Besides, a unified party may be defeated by an even unified minority. Nevertheless, the republican control throughout the years is quite telling. During the first Newt Gingrich congress, the party leadership of the Republican was nearly as strong as that of the Democratic predecessor. The measure however, drops sharply in the following congress, resulting in the wake of Gingrich’s ouster as the house speaker (Fenno, 117).

Leadership styles of Nancy Pelosi

There are a number of factors that help cement Pelosi’s growing stature. In the past, the Democrats have taken about fifty seats and this improved the party status from a minority party to a majority party. She has experienced no rivalry in relation to her style of leadership and also the ranks she holds in the party. However, the leadership ranks she holds had once been taken by Steny H. Hoyer, who was once a formidable rival but currently is a very loyal lieutenant. Further, Pelosi is the person in charge for fund raising for House Democrats, positioning it to at least $26 million for the DCCC alone this cycle. Lastly, Pelosi has become the foremost communicator for House Democrats, speaking more on the floor than any other speaker in the recent past (Loomis, 25).

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Pelosi is so far the most influential speaker of the House and being the historic first woman to hold that office. She does not discuss with or argue with the standing committee chairmen whose earlier speakers have been made to dance to their tune. Pelosi is a collaborator. Being a collaborator, she admits that if these leaders would not have stood for, since after all she was the unlikely she would not have made it. They sought the support and unification of people who would otherwise have been formidable rivals or who would not have taken the advantage of the old paradigm.

Pelosi has good personal relationship with House minority leader, John A Boehner. But members of her leadership cadre are staring to dislike Cantor despite their indifferences. The part of the reason being, Cantor is using the same procedures Pelosi used to successfully torture former House Speaker Dennis Hastert when she was the Democratic whip in 2002 and 2003 (Fenno, 53).

Pelosi conveys self-confidence and control. The speaker’s Democratic allies are thrilled with the image that she is projecting. Leading House Democrats are functioning in corroboration with anti-war activist groups and have decided to utilize congressional control to bring to an end the Iraq war but as an alternative they have followed a slow-bleed policy that has been intended to slowly bind the administration options. The campaign is going to be led by an all-time friend of Pelosi, John P. Murtha. The tactic will be executed through a multimillion-dollar media advertisement campaign intended to force GOP current office holders into differing and terminating their union with President Bush and therefore forcing the administration to come clean on the war being politically unsustainable.

Democratic Party leadership

Pelosi who had been a Democratic Party Speak on leadership was elevated to the post of House Minority whip in the year 2001 and was second-in-command to Gephardt who was the Minority Leader. Historically, she is the first woman in the United States to hold the seat of the speaker. She has campaigned for candidates in thirty states and in ninety congressional districts allowing her the perfect candidate for the Democratic Party. After Gephardt resigned as a minority leader in 2002, in order to seek Democratic nomination in 2004, Pelosi was elected to replace him (Fenno, 82).

Legislative record

As the higher-ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, she struggled for the American families. To this effect, she has played a major role in increasing education opportunities, workers’ protection, and promotion of the health care especially for the women and has also been very instrumental in establishing tracking mechanisms to link pollution of the environment with chronic diseases. Pelosi has been instrumental in increased health research investments. She has also successfully defeated attempts to reduce funding for international family planning programs (Sinclair, 25).

One of her first legislative policies as the House speaker was the creation of the Housing opportunities for people living with AIDS. She has played her part in accelerating the HIV vaccine, expanding Medicaid for people living with HIV as well as increasing funding for Ryan white CARE act. She has also been very instrumental in ensuring that Health Insurance services are not discriminated towards the disabled people and this through her policy of continuation in the health care coverage. She has also been instrumental in passing legislations to assist non profit organizations in the creation of reasonable housing (Fenno, 123).

Pelosi has also worked with policymakers and military commanders are provided with timely and accurate intelligence required in guiding diplomatic initiatives, succeeding in combat and protecting U.S. military forces. She has for a long time been a champion of the human rights on a global perspective. Pelosi fought to improve Human rights record in China, attempted to tie trade to increased human rights standards, never forgetting that she has been an instrumental leader in her efforts to free people of Tibet (Sinclair, 25).

Pelosi has been a pioneer on the environmental watch both locally and internationally and has played a very important role in securing passage of a provision in the International Development and Finance Act (1989) which stated that the World Bank and all other multilateral development institutions needed to evaluate the possible environmental effects of various development ventures for which they are providing financial assistance to and then make these environmental evaluations available to the public. It has come to be known as “Pelosi Amendment” and has significantly become an important tool for local and nongovernmental organizations all around the world (Dwyre, 269).

Having served also on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (ethics) and Banking and Financial Committee, Pelosi has been in the forefront by chairing the Congressional Working Group on China and also serving on the Executive committee of the Democratic Study Group (Fenno, 117).

Democratic nomination and election as speaker

Pelosi was jointly selected as a Democrat aspirant for the speaker in November 2006, successfully making her the speaker-elect. The speaker is elected by the full house membership and the speaker always comes from the majority party. Nancy Pelosi supported by John Murtha for the position of house majority leader, second post in the house Democratic caucus. His competitor was Steny Hoyer, the house minority whip who had been Pelosi’s second-in-command since 2003. On January third, Nancy Pelosi defeated the Republican John Boehner in the election for the speaker of the House (Sidlow, 29).

Differences between Pelosi and Gingrich

A significant difference between Democrat and Republican Party leadership was not structural; the Republican committee on committees, the counterpart of Democrat’s steering and policy committee often which went beyond the seniority in proposing committee chairs to the caucus. The republican also changed the power balance between the full committee chair and the subcommittee chairs. They eliminated the seniority system for granting sub-committee chairmanships, granting the chairmanship committee the full flexibility in the selection (Fenno, 153).

Both Pelosi and Gingrich ascended to power through almost similar situations that were marked by their opposition to the administration in power and which played a major role in elevating the underdogs to rule the country, Pelosi has pioneered a leadership style in her leadership style. Either by a political calculation or by a natural temperament, she has succeeded in averting Gingrich’s early slip-ups. Pelosi polls ahead of Democratic leaders as well as congress as a whole and until lately she has enjoyed a fifteen point lead in approval ratings over Gingrich. However, lately she has the same ratings as what Gingrich had at this time. Her drop in the ratings coincided with Democrat’s failed face-off with White House over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. She has also picked a fight with the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce, John Dingell over the legislations of the global warming (Mayhew, 96).

Pelosi’s congressional ratings are lower than ever. The public does not recognize Pelosi as much as it recognizes Gingrich and this is especially evidenced by the fact that twice as many people do not recognize her as the people who recognized Gingrich. In fact, Gingrich held thirty three news conferences in his first three months many of which were solo events televised nationally. Pelosi on the other hand conducted nearly half that number during the same period and she at most times has invited other lawmakers to join her. To her critics, Pelosi’s sheltered media coverage is a weakness. She took a low profile. Gingrich on his part would go behind the enemy lines and not think about it (Fenno, 117).

Gingrich’s ubiquity in the press was among his role as the GOP visionary. He served in dimensions as an idea man, conservative touchstone and a chief pep-talker. Newt Gingrich derived much of his power from the grassroots and left the daily running of the House to his deputies. However, the approach worked well, until the same deputies later plotted a coup against him and in the end managed to overthrow him. On the other hand, Pelosi handles her internal dealings differently. She runs her operations of the House quite keenly, even small decisions she handles them directly through the speaker’s office. She flourishes on a congressional power base composed of commitment of her fellow House Democrats. A positive for her because, she has a personal following in the House as compared to Newt Gingrich hence it can be hard for her to fall into the same internal divisions that befell Gingrich (Loomis, 25).

Pelosi has sided with moderates on the most controversial issues for instance the Iraq war. The anti-war called her decision to provide war funding even without a timeline of the troop withdrawal a “submission” to the White House. The issue emphasizes a central challenge to Pelosi’s period as a speaker and highlights how to ease the left without endangering the moderates. Unlike the revolution of Gingrich, Pelosi’s majority depends on a handful of newly elected modest from marginal districts. She has recognized that the Democratic majority is built on swing districts. Gingrich had no such restrictions. Most of Gingrich’s new Republicans won in districts that had been represented by conservative voters. Gingrich was on liberty to preach a strong conservative message long before the election. For Pelosi, she came in as a relative unknown. Hotline poll taken after last November election showed that a third of respondents did not know of Pelosi (Fenno, 132).

The liberal media detested Gingrich and adored Pelosi. They demonstrated this by the way they played the Gingrich threat in the weeks after the 1994 GOP tragedy, while practically ignoring Pelosi and her fundamental schema for the last two months.

The media reacted to Gingrich in an intense, severe and swift way. Reaction to Pelosi was pleased but clearly restrained. Newt Gingrich was depicted as an extremist threat to everything near and dear to Americans. The Newsweek featured the recognized cartoonish holiday cover named “how the Gingrich stole the Christmas”.

A poetical program known as Sunday Morning attacked Gingrich and it is aired in CBS media corporation network.

The anchor even began with the theme how the Gingrich stole the Christmas (Sinclair, 25).

Similarities between Pelosi and Gingrich

Pelosi and Gingrich are both goal oriented and believe that they were instrumental in party efforts to win the legislative majority in the election when their party emerged the winners. Pelosi, through her determined focus and fundraising, she led the charge for her party’s victory in 2006. Gingrich provided the intellectual underpinnings through “contract with America” for his party’s triumph in 1994. They both viewed themselves as spokesmen/women for their respective parties and they felt that it was paramount that the congressional branch of their parties speaks in a uniform voice, that is, their voice (Fenno, 117).

Pelosi and Gingrich actively sought for broad press coverage when they assumed office, something rarely done by the new speakers. Gingrich appeared on magazine covers and he gave a one hour policy-driven acceptance speech. Pelosi did an elaborate victory tour which involved a high class reception at the Italian Embassy, magnificent concert at a local museum and a tour to her Baltimore.

Both speakers see themselves as national leaders, something the past speakers did not pursue publicly. Gingrich questioned his affinity for seeking publicity. Pelosi, on the other hand, emphasized almost daily photo ops relatively to the lengthy policy announcements.

Both have assertively disputed with presidents of the opposite party over majority policy issues in their earlier term. Gingrich had a dispute with Bill Clinton Administration over the federal budget, while Pelosi had a dispute with Bush Administration over Iraq war. Gingrich was out-maneuvered while Pelosi’s confrontation with George W. Bush is still under the jury (Sidlow, 25).

Both Pelosi and Gingrich have used the restrictive floor procedures through the rules committee to play to their advantage after promising during their campaigns that they would encourage more open rules and being fair to the minority. However, Gingrich never followed on his commitment but it’s still possible with Pelosi (Loomis, 29).

Gingrich and Pelosi have tried to restraint in the powers of the strong committee chairs but the results have primarily been dictated by the internal politics in their respective parties. Speaker Gingrich chose to tackle the old bulls committee chairs, the likes of Sam Rayburn, Carl Albert, James Wright and Thomas Foley head on. He passed over the senior members on the Appropriations Committee and he went down the ranks to make Bob Livingston the chairman. Gingrich often had major bills written in the office of the speaker rather than in the committee. Speaker Pelosi followed the seniority procedure and did less to deny any senior member a standing committee chairmanship although she confronted Dingell over the issue of global warming by proposing a select committee over the subject (Fenno, 125).

Both Gingrich and Pelosi are personally bright and strong staff. Gingrich is more intellectual with wide-ranging interest while Pelosi is street-smart.

Both Gingrich and Pelosi care about international affairs rather than just domestic policies though they differ distinctively on domestic policies. To highlight this interest is Pelosi’s recent trip to the Middle East. Most other speakers left the foreign policy to the executive branch (Mayhew, 96).

Both did not represent the areas in which they were born in. Although Pelosi is based in San Francisco where she represents, she grew up in Baltimore. Gingrich was raised in Pennsylvania, though he served from Georgia. This definitely contrasted the previous speakers who were permanent residents of their particular states and districts for instance Tip O’Neill and John McCormack in Massachusetts (Sidlow, 29).

Both Pelosi and Gingrich have not had an easy relationship with other members of their leadership team. Clearly, Gingrich did not connect well with Tom Delay who is whip.

The same at times can be said of Pelosi who does not do well with Steny Hoyer who is her deputy principal and this is based on the fact that Hoyer races against her for the party whip. Pelosi’s support for Jack Murtha over Hoyer early this year for the majority leader is a clear indications that fight is still not over (Loomis, 25).

Works cited

Dwyre and Farrar-Myers. 2001. Legislative Labyrinth

Fenno, Richard F. Jr. 1984. U.S. Senate: A Bicameral Perspective

Fenno, Richard F. Jr. 2000. Congress at the Grassroots: Representational Change in the South 1970- 1998. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Fenno, Richard F., Jr. 1973. Congressmen in Committees.

Fenno, Richard F., Jr. 1978. Home Style: House Members in their Districts

Kingdon, John. 2003. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policy

Loomis, Burdett A., and Wendy Schiller, 2006. The Contemporary Congress. 5th ed. USA: Thomson Wadsworth

Mayhew, David R. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven: Yale University Press

Mayhew, David R. 2000. America’s Congress: Actions in the Public Sphere, James Madison through Newt Gingrich

Sidlow.2007. Freshman Orientation: House Style and Home Style. CQ Press. Bond and Fleisher. 2000. Polarized Politics

Sinclair, Barbara. 2000. Unorthodox Lawmaking.

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