Pelosi chosen as House minority leader, Boehner as GOP speaker nominee

A variety of new faces showed up for the first day of the "lame duck" session in Congress.
By Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 17, 2010; 3:33 PM

Beating back a brewing rebellion among Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won election Wednesday to serve as minority leader in the next Congress, two weeks after her party's historic losses in the midterm elections.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) defeated her only challenger, conservative Democrat Heath Shuler (N.C.), by a secret vote of 150 to 43. Those votes against Pelosi served as a benchmark of the size of the bloc of Democrats who oppose her continued presence in leadership.

Pelosi did not speak before the vote, according to Democratic aides in the room. She was nominated for the post by a quartet of lawmakers who covered the regional and ideological makeup of the caucus. Two members of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, which was cut in half by the midterm election, and a fellow North Carolinian, Larry Kissell, spoke on Shuler's behalf, followed by an attempt at unifying the caucus by the former Redskins quarterback.

"At the end of the day, we have to come together as a party to win together," Shuler said, according to one senior aide.

With this victory, Pelosi will become the first speaker to move into the position of minority leader since Joseph Martin (R-Mass.) in 1955.

Republicans also met Wednesday afternoon next door in the Longworth House Office Building, with their top three leadership spots uncontested. Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio) was chosen the GOP nominee to be speaker and Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.) was confirmed as majority leader, both in unanimous votes.

Boehner will not formally claim the speaker's gavel until Jan. 5, when he is expected to receive a majority of votes from the full House.

Despite her victory, Pelosi's hold on power is demonstrably weaker than during her previous eight-year run at the top of the Democratic caucus.

Before they went to vote on the slate of leaders, Democrats rejected an effort to delay leadership elections Wednesday until next month so the rank-and-file members could more fully absorb the largest loss of seats since 1938.

Although the delay motion by Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) failed, more than a third of the caucus sided with them, demonstrating that far more than just the two-dozen remaining Blue Dogs had reservations about leaving Pelosi's leadership team intact.

The vote was 129 to 68 in favor of moving forward now. "I think 68 votes is a substantial message," said DeFazio, a staunch liberal.

Shuler's 43 votes also signaled a level of discontent with the current leadership structure, as he pulled a chunk of his support from non-Blue Dogs.

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