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Pelosi Wins Bid for Leader Despite 43 Defections

Updated: 2:55 p.m.

Despite the defections of 43 Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday easily won her bid to serve as Minority Leader in the 112th Congress.

The California lawmaker retains her spot as the top House Democrat. She beat back a token challenge from Rep. Heath Shuler, a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, by a 150-43 vote, according to sources in the room.

Afterward, Shuler said the vote “was a message in that there are more than just the Blue Dogs who are concerned about what is going on.”

The North Carolina lawmaker said he did not expect to beat Pelosi but felt he should make the race because he thought House Democrats needed a more moderate leader in the next Congress. Pelosi has come under criticism from Blue Dog Democrats who have argued that she is too liberal to recruit and help win back seats in conservative-leaning districts.

Prior to the vote for Minority Leader, the Caucus also voted down a proposal by Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) to delay the leadership races until Dec. 8. Kaptur and DeFazio wanted Members to have more time to absorb the midterm election losses before electing their new leadership lineup.

“We need to both revisit, you know, what happened in this election,” DeFazio said Wednesday on his way into the Caucus. “I don’t think our Caucus has expressed itself in a way that the American people have heard, and they can see that we are going to do things differently, and our leadership has not given us a plan to climb back to the majority. I would like to hear that in the coming weeks and then judge who should be leader. Right now it’s just a registration of the existing group who incurred the largest legislative losses of my lifetime.”

DeFazio, who garnered 19 signatures for a letter supporting the delay, said before the meeting that he planned to ask for unanimous consent to hold a secret ballot vote on his proposal and that Pelosi had given her support to allowing a secret ballot.

Pelosi’s candidacy was the only one that was contested; the other four leadership posts were expected to be approved by acclamation. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) will serve as Minority Whip, while Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) will become Assistant Leader, a newly created No. 3 leadership post. Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) ran unchallenged for their current posts. Democrats will also elect outgoing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) to serve as ranking member on the Budget Committee.

Clyburn said he could release more details Thursday about what his new leadership duties would entail, but he added that Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (Calif.) approved of him moving into a different role next Congress. Clyburn had been vying for Minority Whip against Hoyer, but he agreed to take the No. 3 Assistant Leader job under a deal brokered by Pelosi.

“Barbara Lee says she’s fine with it: If she’s fine, I’m fine,” Clyburn said.

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