Is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acceding to Republican demands that the membership of a special commission to investigate the global economic crisis be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats? The 10-member commission was originally slated to have a 6-4 split in favor of the Democrats. Earlier this month, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, urged Pelosi to follow the model of the 9-11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group, on which both parties were equally represented. He may be getting his wish: at her weekly press briefing on Friday Pelosi suggested that she had a Republican in mind for one of her two picks.
Previously, a Pelosi spokesman had been quick to defend the idea of a panel made up of six Democrats and four Republicans. While asserting that the speaker would choose the "most qualified" people regardless of political affiliation, the spokesman argued that 50-50 commissions have been the exception, not the rule, in recent years. He even sent Mother Jones a detailed set of commission-related statistics:
Counting all the commissions identified by CRS Report R40076 and subtracting out the commemorative commissions (such as the Ben Franklin Tercentenary Commission), there are a total of 23 congressional commissions created by legislation between the 107th and 110th Congress (2001-2008).
Of these 23 commissions:
7 had an even partisan split
4 had a one-appointment advantage to the majority party
8 had a super-majority advantage to the majority party
4 were appointed entirely by the executive branch, with only recommendations or consultation with congressional leaders
Pelosi's spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, also noted that two other bills introduced by House Republicans would have created similar bodies with majority-Democratic memberships. Plus, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who sponsored the original Senate amendment creating the commission, has said he thinks Republicans are already getting a fair shake, even if they're outnumbered on the panel.
So why is Pelosi bowing to Issa's demands? Maybe she has come around to the view that an even split would help the commision's credibility. Or maybe she just thinks she's found the best person for the job.