Z10 what happened? (Cue apologist rhetoric now) Pelosi Falls Short On Election Promises By: Daniel W. Reilly and Jim VandeHei February 27, 2007 02:06 PM EST House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with members of the Western Governors' Association inside the Speaker's conference room in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Feb. 26, 2007. (John Shinkle) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is discovering the cold truth about governing with a slim majority: It's much easier to promise behavioral change for Congress than to deliver it. Pelosi vowed that five-day workweeks would be a hallmark of a harder-working Democratic majority. So far, the House has logged only one. Lawmakers plan to clock three days this week. The speaker has denied Republicans a vote on their proposals during congressional debates -- a tactic she previously declared oppressive and promised to end. Pelosi has opened the floor to a Republican alternative just once. Pelosi set a high standard for herself when she pledged to make this "the most ethical Congress in history" -- a boast that was the political equivalent of leading with her chin. And some critics have been happy to hit it. She is drawing fire for putting Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who had $90,000 in alleged bribe money in his freezer, on the Homeland Security Committee. And The Washington Post reported during the weekend that she is helping chairmen raise money from donors with business before their committees. Pelosi can count several big changes designed to curb abuses that plagued the Republican majority before it was dethroned in last fall's elections, including new limits on gifts from lobbyists. But her debut has not quieted skeptics who see her and the new majority failing to make the clean break with the deeply ingrained congressional culture. "She has done exactly what she said she would do," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly. For Continuing Coverage of Iraq Visit For example, he noted, while the House is not always in session five days a weeks, many committees are working throughout the week. Pelosi promised an ambitious start to the new Congress, he said, and she had determined the best way to proceed was by limiting debate. "In the future," Daly said, "we will do business in the regular order." Pelosi seems to be following a familiar pattern. Twelve years ago, Speaker Newt Gingrich promised to reform the House and govern by principles of fairness and transparency. But, for leaders of both parties, the reality of ruling with a narrow majority translates into tight controls over floor debate, cozy relations with lobbyists and accommodating the needs of lawmakers (who hate working long weeks). Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a congressional watchdog organization, said Jefferson's reelection put the new speaker in a bind. "Pelosi had to put him somewhere," said Sloan, who has also worked as minority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee for then-ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). "But I am troubled by the fact ... that (Jefferson) is the kind of guy who could not pass a security clearance test and yet now he has access to top-secret government info." Sloan also took issue with Democrats' use of committee chairs for fundraising efforts, a tactic Republicans often abused in the last Congress. "Given the scandals of last Congress, particularly involving (disgraced former lobbyist Jack) Abramoff, it doesn't look good," Sloan said. "It is very hard for people to understand the difference between what's legal and what's illegal." Republicans are cutting Pelosi less slack than that. Eager to brand her a hypocrite, GOP strategists are closely tracking what they call a growing list of "broken promises" and are encouraging their members to attack her for them. "She promised the most open and honest Congress in history and by any objective score, (Democrats) have fallen short," said Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.). Pressed on whether voters will care about procedural complaints, such as lack of floor votes for GOP proposals, Putnam said: "I think voters do care if you shut down the process to the point people cannot even offer an alternative, and you are stifling debate â¦You don't want to be constantly complaining about the process, but bottom line, they are abusing it." Some Democratic lawmakers privately warn that Pelosi could blow a rare opportunity to change voters' perception of the party and Congress if she reverts to old Republican ways. In a recent newspaper commentary, former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana expressed concern "that the new Democratic majority in the House, which certainly understands the sting of unfair treatment, has on occasion yielded to the temptation of its newfound power to shut down Republican participation." So far, the GOP has been shut out of virtually every big debate. The most recent example was the House fight over the war in Iraq, in which Democrats broke their promise to allow the GOP a vote on its nonbinding resolution supporting the troops. Pelosi sympathizers said Republican critics are laying it on a bit thick. "Oh, cry me a river," said former Democratic Rep. Tony Coelho. "For six years they ran a system that was autocratic, that didn't give the minority a shot at offering anything and now are saying 'mistreatment' â¦They never even let the Democrats have a voice." Still, Pelosi's experience with the recent Iraq debate illustrates her challenge. She calculated that it would be harder to build bipartisan support for a Democratic resolution condemning the administration's troop "surge" if the debate were muddied by a generic, support-the-troops vote. In essence, she determined it was riskier, in the short term, to keep her pledge than to break it. There is a practical reason for this approach, too. Alternatives are ripe for mischief. The minority party often puts together legislation designed to either embarrass or divide the other side. That means there is almost always a temptation to backtrack on pledges of reform. Gingrich and his self-proclaimed "revolutionaries" roared to power in 1994 with promises to undo the feather-nesting and strong-arm tactics that had come to mark the Democratic reign -- then discovered that what they once deemed outrageous seemed more defensible once their party was in charge. In light of this history, say some congressional scholars, Pelosi soon will be facing a choice. "If we don't start seeing some opportunities for Republicans to offer real amendments on floor and to see some effort at collaboration that is genuine," said Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, "then she and Democrats will properly be subject to criticism."