As congressional Republicans continued Monday to stoke the flames over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accusation that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding, House Democrats appeared to be standing behind their leader.
One of Pelosi’s closest allies in the House, Connecticut Democrat John Larson, acknowledged to CNN that the speaker’s news conference last week could have been better, but insisted there hasn’t been any fallout among Democrats. “Perhaps it wasn’t one of her best press conferences. But certainly everyone in this caucus stands behind her to be the lead in our caucus. I don’t know if it could have been done better or not, but our caucus is entirely behind her, ” Larson said. Several Democratic sources told CNN that privately, some congressional Democrats are baffled by Pelosi’s decision to escalate the controversy last week by going after the CIA. But Larson, who chairs the House Democratic caucus, also said that he’s spoken to members over the weekend and that they are “solidly behind the speaker.” Watch more from Larson and others » Another Connecticut Democrat, Chris Murphy, said there’s a “total disconnect” between what pundits and talk show hosts are talking about and what he hears from his constituents. Murphy said there might be some impact on the speaker’s ability to continue leading if the issue were something people were talking about in his district, but it’s not. Murphy said at “another political moment, this issue might dominate” representatives’ minds, but he said lawmakers are so focused on pushing through major policy changes on health care and energy that “there’s not a lot of tolerance for distractions.”
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Conservative Indiana Democrat Baron Hill said that people who are zeroing in on the speaker are trying to move away from the broader issue of who authorized the harsh interrogation methods. “I think a lot of people have lost focus on the people who put those torture policies in place in the first place,” Hill said. “Nancy didn’t do anything wrong, in terms of the legalities, that I’m aware of. I don’t know what she was told. I’m not here to cast judgment on her at all.” Hill said he made a half a dozen visits in his Indiana district over the weekend, and no one raised the issue of Pelosi with him.
Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, also downplayed any impact the story is having on the focus of getting major legislation passed in the House. “Health care, and now climate change, is now overriding any personal or political issue,” Green said. But Pelosi’s office is reaching out to Democrats to tell them about the speaker’s record on the issue. CNN obtained a copy of “talking points” that Pelosi’s office distributed last week. The document lists a timeline of the issue and includes the point that the speaker repeatedly made at her news conference last week: “The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed.”