House Democrats defy Pelosi and elect Hoyer ma­jor­ity leader

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Charles Hurt

House Democrats on Nov. 16 over­whelm­ingly re­jected Speak­er­elect Nancy Pelosi’s choice for ma­jor­ity leader.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat and Pelosi ally, lost a lop­sided149-86vote­toRep.StenyH. Hoyer,theMary­landDemocratwho has been a long­time po­lit­i­cal ri­val of Mrs. Pelosi’s.

Mrs. Pelosi, who cam­paigned openly and ag­gres­sively for Mr. Murtha, tried patch­ing up dif­fer­ences im­me­di­ately af­ter the se­cret vote held be­hind closed doors.

“We’ve­hadour­dif­fer­encesinour party,” she said, with a grin­ning Mr. Hoyer be­side her and a glum-look­ing Mr. Murtha be­hind her. “We have come to­gether.”

But be­fore turn­ing the mi­cro­pho­neover­toMr.Hoyer,Mrs.Pelosi once again talked about why she strongly backed Mr. Murtha for the No. 2 post.

“I thank him for his courage in step­ping for­ward one year ago to speak truth to power, to change the de­bate in this coun­try in a way that I think gave us this ma­jor­ity in this Novem­ber,” she said in ref­er­ence to Mr. Murtha’s early calls for with­draw­ing the troops from Iraq.

“I was proud to sup­port him for ma­jor­ity leader be­cause I thought that would be the best way to bring an end to the war in Iraq,” she said. “I know that he will con­tinue to take the­lead­on­thatis­sue­forour­cau­cus, for this Congress, for our coun­try.”

Mr. Hoyer, who never went neg­a­tive in the lead­er­ship race even as Mr.Murtha­pub­licly­ac­cused­hi­mof sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Bush’s war pol­icy, was gra­cious in vic­tory, salut­ing Mrs. Pelosi for be­ing elected the first fe­male House speaker in U.S. his­tory.

“She is not the first speaker be­cause she’s a wo­man,” he said. “She is the first wo­man speaker be­cause she is a per­son of deep val­ues, keen in­tel­lect and ex­tra­or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal abil­ity.”

De­spite the show of unity be­fore the­cam­eras,theNov.16voteshowed that­n­ear­lytwo-third­soft­he­newDemo­crat­ic­ma­jor­i­tyintheHouse­was will­ing­tode­fyMrs.Pelosi’sde­mand that they vote for Mr. Murtha.

Since gain­ing 29 seats in the Nov. 7 elec­tion, House Democrats have pri­vately ex­pressed deep con­cern over Mr. Murtha and say Mrs. Pelosi blun­dered by back­ing him so force­fully.

SomeDemocrats­saidthatanally like Mr. Murtha in the No. 2 spot would give Mrs. Pelosi unchecked power.

But most Democrats said they op­posed Mr. Murtha be­cause they had run cam­paigns on a prom­ise to clean up cor­rup­tion in Wash­ing­ton, and Mr. Murtha is one of the most scan­dal-tainted mem­bers of Congress. He was im­pli­cated a quar­ter­centu­ryagointheso-calledAb­scam bribery scan­dal.

Some won­dered why Mrs. Pelosi stuck her neck out so far so early on Mr. Murtha’s be­half.

But Rep. James P. Mo­ran, Vir­ginia Demo­crat, said that in the af­ter­math, “No one would ques­tion her loy­alty.”

Oth­ers spec­u­lated that Mrs. Pelosi urged Mr. Murtha to run for Mr. Hoyer’s No. 2 po­si­tion in or­der to fo­cus at­ten­tion on a Hoy­erMurtha show­down — thus pre­vent­ing a pos­si­ble chal­lenge by Mr. Hoyer against Mrs. Pelosi for the speaker’s job.

Mr. Murtha said yes­ter­day he would re­turn to the “small sub­com­mit­tee that I have on Ap­pro­pri­a­tions,” a jok­ing ref­er­ence to the pow­er­ful De­fense Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee.

Mr.Murthahim­self­maynothave been en­tirely sur­prised by the loss of his bid for a lead­er­ship spot. A video record­ing that showed him ne­go­ti­at­ing for 54 min­utes with un­der­cover FBI agents more than two decades ago in­cluded Mr. Murtha’s ex­pla­na­tion of why one of his fel­low con­gress­men was ac­cept­ing a $50,000 bribe but Mr. Murtha was de­clin­ing it.

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