Bid to delay House Democrats' leadership elections fails, paving way for Pelosi

A variety of new faces showed up for the first day of the "lame duck" session in Congress.
By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 17, 2010; 1:28 PM

House Democrats rejected an effort by a large group of party rebels to delay leadership elections Wednesday, setting in motion a path for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to become minority leader.

Democrats rejected a motion by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) to put off the vote until December so the rank-and-file members could more fully absorb the largest loss of seats since 1938. The vote, 129 to 68 in favor of moving forward now, was seen as preventing the only obstacle to Pelosi's leadership team remaining intact as they head into the minority.

The nearly 70 votes to put off the elections were a demonstration of a considerable bloc of opposition, effectively a no-confidence vote, with those supporting delay tacitly bucking the idea of keeping this leadership team in the exact same slots.

"I think 68 votes is a substantial message," DeFazio said.

Meeting in the historic Cannon Caucus Room across the street from the Capitol, Democrats will now proceed to voting on the leadership slate, first retaining Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) in his post as Democratic caucus chairman, the No. 4 position.

Then, Pelosi faces off against Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who is a party conservative running to move the party more toward the center. Shuler is expected to lose, but many insiders are watching to see how many votes he secures as a measure of how much standing Pelosi has lost in the wake of the midterm losses. The only other time she was opposed for leader or speaker, by then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), Ford received 29 votes in the 2002 leadership elections.

Later Wednesday, the House Republicans hold their leadership elections next door in the Longworth office building and will select Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) as their nominee to be speaker, which won't become formalized until the new House votes Jan. 5.

The only contested GOP race is for the lowest leadership post, policy chairman, pitting Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) against Rep. Connie Mack (Fla.)

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