Pelosi hangs onto leader’s role in House

Calif. law­maker fends off Ohio chal­lenger, but 134-63 vote hints at Demo­cratic di­vide

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Erica Werner

WASH­ING­TON — House Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi as their leader Wed­nes­day, rat­i­fy­ing the sta­tus quo in a chang­ing Wash­ing­ton de­spite wide­spread frus­tra­tion over the party’s direc­tion.

That dis­en­chant­ment man­i­fested it­self in 63 law­mak­ers vot­ing for Pelosi’s op­po­nent, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan — by far the largest de­fec­tion Pelosi has suf­fered since she be­gan lead­ing House Democrats in 2002.

Still, the Cal­i­for­nia law­maker had de­clared ahead of time that more than two-thirds of the cau­cus was sup­port­ing her, and she won al­most two-thirds with 134 votes. It was a tes­ta­ment to her vote-count­ing skills and to her abil­ity to hang onto power even in dark days for Democrats, as they con­front a cap­i­tal that will be con­trolled by the GOP next year.

“I have a spe­cial spring in my step to­day be­cause this op­por­tu­nity is a spe­cial one, to lead the House Democrats, bring ev­ery­one to­gether as we go for­ward,” Pelosi, 76, said.

She dis­puted the sug­ges­tion that she might be con­cerned about the de­fec­tions she suf­fered. “They weren’t de­fec­tions, I had two-thirds of the vote,” she said, re­peat­ing “two-thirds, two-thirds” to re­porters.

And she in­sisted Democrats would re­bound.

“We know how to win elec­tions,” she said. “We’ve done it in the past, we will do it again.”

Sup­port­ers said Pelosi was their best bet to con­front a Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump from the mi­nor­ity after Democrats picked up only a half-dozen seats in the House, far fewer than an­tic­i­pated and well be­low Pelosi’s pre­dic­tions. House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi on her win: “I have a spe­cial spring in my step to­day.”

Repub­li­cans are on track to hold at least 240 seats in the House next year, while Democrats will have 194.

“We need some­one who is bat­tle- tested,” Rep. Debbie Din­gell of Michi­gan told fel­low Democrats in nom­i­nat­ing Pelosi. “We need our leader to be sea­soned, tough.”

For their part, Ryan and his back­ers in­sisted that they had won a vic­tory in send­ing a mes­sage to Pelosi about the de­sire for change among House Democrats.

“Some­body had to do some­thing,” said Ryan, 43, a seven-term law­maker. “Our prospects have im­proved just be­cause of this con­ver­sa­tion.”

Lead­er­ship elec­tions were orig­i­nally sched­uled to be held be­fore Thanks­giv­ing but were de­layed to give Democrats more time to con­sider a path for­ward. Law­mak­ers ex­pressed frus­tra­tion over a range of is­sues, in­clud­ing stag­nant lead­er­ship in their cau­cus, and Democrats’ fail­ures to con­nect with white work­ing-class vot­ers.

“I’m very con­cerned we just signed the Demo­cratic Party’s death cer­tifi­cate un­less we change what we are talk­ing about, which is re­ally the work­ing man and woman’s agenda,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader of Ore­gon.

Pelosi has earned loy­alty from many Democrats over the years, in­clud­ing as a fundraiser, rais­ing over $140 mil­lion for Democrats in the 2016 cy­cle, and as a leg­isla­tive tac­ti­cian. As speaker in 2009 she steered Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law through the House and also pushed through a di­vi­sive bill to cap car­bon emis­sions, but Democrats suf­fered mas­sive losses in midterm elec­tions the next year and lost their ma­jor­ity.

Pelosi’s vic­tory Wed­nes­day came only after she promised some changes to

MARK WIL­SON/GETTY

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