House Democrats reaf­firm Pelosi as leader de­spite losses

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

House Democrats re­newed Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s lease on power Wed­nes­day, vot­ing to keep her as party leader and in­sist­ing she bears no blame for her party’s stag­ger­ing elec­toral losses over the past six years.

She faced her tough­est chal­lenge yet in her 14 years at the helm, ced­ing more than 60 votes to Rep. Tim Ryan, a 43-year-old Ohio Demo­crat who said the party had lost touch with Mid­dle Amer­ica and needed a shake-up to be­gin con­nect­ing — and win­ning — again.

Mrs. Pelosi’s back­ers agreed that the party must do more to re­con­nect with vot­ers in the “fly­over” states but said Democrats’ prob­lems are the fault of oth­ers. They said the 76-year-old has the po­lit­i­cal met­tle and fundrais­ing prow­ess to be what one law­maker called their “come­back leader.”

“This is a time, I think, that we need some­one who is bat­tle-tested. And there is no stronger bat­tle-tested per­son than Nancy Pelosi,” said Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings of Mary­land.

Mrs. Pelosi won on a 134-63 vote, held

be­hind closed doors.

Democrats also kept the rest of their top lead­er­ship, elect­ing Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, 77, of Mary­land to the No. 2 job of whip, and Rep. James E. Cly­burn, 76, of South Carolina to the No. 3 post of as­sis­tant leader.

That lineup hasn’t changed in a decade, as the party won a ma­jor­ity in the 2006 elec­tions then watched it slip away in 2010 and failed to take it back in the three elec­tions since, de­spite twice win­ning the pres­i­den­tial pop­u­lar vote.

Emerg­ing af­ter her vic­tory, Mrs. Pelosi told re­porters that she had “a spe­cial spring in my step today” and said she could craft a win­ning mes­sage that reaches all parts of the coun­try.

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

Her sup­port­ers blamed their party’s elec­toral mis­for­tunes on fac­tors such as ger­ry­man­der­ing of con­gres­sional dis­tricts, the Wik­iLeaks emails and Hil­lary Clin­ton’s mes­sage on the cam­paign trail.

“When Hil­lary Clin­ton came to my home­town of Toledo, Ohio, and stood at the busiest Am­trak ter­mi­nal in Ohio, she did not speak about her in­fra­struc­ture bill,” said Rep. Marcy Kap­tur. “She talked about War­ren Buf­fet. … Most peo­ple in my district don’t even know who he is.”

Ms. Kap­tur said, “I was dumb­founded.”

Mr. Ryan did man­age to force some changes. Mrs. Pelosi sig­naled that she would try to give more ju­nior mem­bers a big­ger say in de­ci­sions.

But his sup­port­ers ques­tioned how Mrs. Pelosi could help the party be­come more com­pet­i­tive with blue-col­lar vot­ers in the Rust Belt and Mid­west that helped power Don­ald Trump to vic­tory over Mrs. Clin­ton and helped give Repub­li­cans key wins that kept their ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate.

“I don’t know how some­one gets elected in the Mid­west when they say, ‘Elect me; I am go­ing to make Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the House,’ ” said Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of Mas­sachusetts. “I don’t know how we win with that mes­sage.”

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, mean­while, said Democrats are tone-deaf.

“This year, vot­ers went to the polls and made a bold state­ment for change in Wash­ing­ton, but House Democrats just dou­bled down on the sta­tus quo,” the RNC said in a state­ment. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple have been try­ing to send the Demo­crat Party a mes­sage by se­lect­ing his­toric num­bers of Repub­li­cans for of­fice at nearly every level of govern­ment but Nancy Pelosi’s re-elec­tion shows Democrats aren’t lis­ten­ing.”

Mrs. Pelosi has be­come one of the more po­lar­iz­ing fig­ures in Wash­ing­ton since tak­ing over in 2003 as leader of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus.

She be­came the first fe­male speaker of the House in 2007 and watched over the party as its ma­jor­ity grew to 256 seats in 2009. But House Democrats have since suf­fered through a series of elec­toral stum­bles and gen­er­ated rum­blings about Mrs. Pelosi’s lead­er­ship.

In 2010, Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina ran against Mrs. Pelosi and gar­nered 43 votes.

When the next Congress con­venes in Jan­uary, Repub­li­cans are poised to have at least 240 seats and Democrats will hold 194 seats. Con­trol of one Louisiana seat will be de­cided in a Dec. 10 runoff.

Chan­nel­ing the anx­i­ety over the elec­toral set­backs, Mr. Ryan came closer than any­one else to strip­ping Mrs. Pelosi of her lead­er­ship ti­tle. He said af­ter the vote that he was dis­ap­pointed but proud of his show­ing and the im­pact the ef­fort had on the party.

“You know, we made a few en­e­mies, we cracked a few eggs along the way, but you know, [you] can’t make an omelet with­out break­ing a few eggs,” he told re­porters.

Mrs. Pelosi, in an­nounc­ing her bid to keep her po­si­tion, said she had the sup­port of two-thirds of her Demo­cratic col­leagues — and she ended up with al­most ex­actly that tally.

As the vote neared, Mrs. Pelosi rolled out a series of changes to cau­cus rules aimed at giv­ing ju­nior law­mak­ers more say. But more ex­pe­ri­enced mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly those in the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, said the pro­posed changes were un­fair be­cause they pun­ished se­nior­ity. ●

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

LEADER: Nancy Pelosi won two more years as head of House Democrats.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who has posed the big­gest chal­lenge to Nancy Pelosi, said he was dis­ap­pointed but proud of the im­pact he has made on his party.

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