Speaker Nancy Pelosi to seek minority leader post
Saturday, November 6, 2010; 8:29 PM
Rejecting demands that she relinquish power after her party's losses in the midterm elections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that she will run for minority leader, potentially setting up an ideological battle within the Democratic membership.
In a letter Saturday to the roughly 190 members of next year's Democratic caucus, Pelosi said she has received "extensive and enthusiastic support" for her leadership bid. "Many of our colleagues, from all areas of our diverse Caucus, have been generous with their ideas and their support," she wrote. "I am grateful for the confidence that has been placed in me to be House Democratic Leader."
Pelosi said she hoped the defeated Democrats "will continue the fight and rejoin us again in two years." This has been a sticking point among moderates who held on Tuesday, with many arguing that so long as she is the party leader they will not run again.
Several Democrats called this week for the Californian to step aside after the defeat of at least 60 Democrats and the return of the House to GOP control. Others said the same thing in private, describing a feeling of frustration with her tough, uncompromising leadership style. Senior Democratic aides said Friday that she will face some opposition in the secret ballot likely to be held the week of Nov. 15.
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) compared the situation to that of a sports team that has had a bad season. "When you suffer a defeat as big as we have, you have to change something. And often you have to change the person who led you in that direction," he said.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said Friday, before Pelosi's announcement, "My perception of what the minority leader does is communications, and I don't think that's her skill set." Yarmuth, a liberal who calls himself "a big fan" of Pelosi's, later announced that he would support her for minority leader.
Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) told CQ-Roll Call, "We need some new direction, and I think the best way is for her to move on."
But Pelosi's allies, who spent the past few days quietly sounding out other Democrats, said that despite grumbling in the ranks, Pelosi has no obvious challenger, making her the clear favorite to win in a caucus that is more liberal after the loss of many moderate Democrats.
She needs just a bare majority of Democrats to become minority leader, and she can count on the support of more than 30 other Californians in a contest that will require fewer than 100 votes for victory.
Pelosi and her inner circle, made up of the party's leading liberals, defended the aggressive agenda of the past two years and rejected the idea that the massive defeat was a repudiation of those policies or of the speaker. They blamed their losses on the struggling economy, and they said President Obama bears much of the responsibility for Tuesday's electoral rout.
Relations between the speaker's office and the White House appear strained, as they often have in the past. Administration officials said privately that Pelosi was to blame, in part, for the loss of a huge number of seats, saying that she did not capitalize on her majority as well as she might have. Pelosi's closest allies said her stature had fallen because Obama and his top aides did not stand up for her.
"There's no evidence they rose to her defense," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), her best friend in Congress.