Q&A with DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen

At an Oct. 21 Monitor breakfast, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen discussed Republican campaign spending, Nancy Pelosi's chance of remaining speaker of the House, and the potential for post-election bipartisanship.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen said at a Oct. 21 Monitor breakfast that he is confident the Democrats will maintain the House majority in the Nov. 2 elections.

US Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He was guest speaker at the Oct. 21 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C.

How Election 2010 compares with Election 2008, when he also chaired the DCCC and the party picked up 21 House seats:

"In 2008 ... we had the benefit of trying to maximize our gains in a positive political environment.... Now we are in a position of trying to make sure that in a tough political environment we hold our majority.… It is a cycle that really puts all of us to the test."

The effect of money flowing into elections from independent groups as a result of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision:

"There are a lot of these big special interests that prefer to operate in the dark [rather] than allow the public to know who's behind them.... What we're witnessing is going to be very corrosive for our democracy.... It's going to change politics for a long time to come."

The advantage independent groups give Republicans:

"The amount of money being spent by the Republican-allied groups and the special interests is huge. As of right now in House races, I believe it is at least about a 5-to-1 [advantage].... These interests, they are out to buy a Congress that will do their bidding and the stakes are very high."

Nancy Pelosi's chances of remaining House speaker if Democrats keep the majority, given that some Democrats say they won't vote for her:

"Nancy Pelosi has an enormous reservoir of goodwill with the Democratic caucus.... We're confident we're going to retain the majority, and I'm confident that Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the House."

Odds for bipartisan cooperation after the election:

"The president needs to have some indication from our Republican colleagues that they're willing to sit down and work.... My concern is that the message being sent in the Republican primaries, where the candidates who were way off on the right are winning, is a message that [there's] no compromise, no negotiation. Let's just be ideological purists ... rather than solving the problems of the country. I hope that's not the case."

Whether the Democrats would become "the party of no" if they lose the majority:

"We're focused on making sure that we have a majority ... and after the election we'll see ... how we proceed from there."

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