Pelosi consolidates support among House Democrats in Speaker vote

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) entered the 113th Congress on Thursday with a greater show of support from her Democratic troops than she had just two years ago.

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In Thursday's much-watched vote for House Speaker, all but seven Democrats voiced their support for Pelosi — a vast improvement over 2011 when 20 rank-and-file members declined to back the California liberal after the party was pummeled at the polls just a few months earlier.

Five of the seven lawmakers are centrist Blue Dog Democrats who voted for other people. The remaining two — Reps. John Lewis (Ga.) and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) — were both away from Washington to attend to family emergencies. 

Both Lewis and Blumenauer would have backed Pelosi had they been on Capitol Hill, their offices said Thursday.

The vote was largely symbolic. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was widely expected to keep the Speaker's gavel, did just that. Nine Republicans defected, but Boehner will again lead the House in the 113th Congress.

The larger show of support for Pelosi could have policy implications, however. Boehner's struggles to rally the support of his conservative conference throughout the 112th Congress have the potential to carry over into the 113th. 

Those dynamics give rare leverage to Pelosi and the Democrats, who will likely be needed to pass the fundamental spending bills that keep the government running. The more unified the Democrats are, the more power they'll have in those debates.

Part of the heightened unity behind Pelosi is a simple function of a new roster. Of the 20 Democrats who opposed her two years ago, only 11 returned to the 113th Congress. 

Of those 11, five Blue Dogs — Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.) — voted Thursday for others they would rather see in the Speaker's chair.

McIntyre and Lipinski voted for Cooper; Barrow for Lewis; Matheson for Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.); and Cooper for former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Michael Michaud (Maine) had all bucked Pelosi to vote for others two years ago, but reversed course to back her this time around.

Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), who voted present in 2010, also backed Pelosi on Thursday. And Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who remained in his district during the 2011 Speaker vote, voted for her as well.

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