Pelosi hangs onto leader’s role in House
Calif. lawmaker fends off Ohio challenger, but 134-63 vote hints at Democratic divide
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