Still defiant, Pelosi defied by 20 Dems

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on Wednesday staunchly defended the work of House Democrats in the last Congress as she introduced the man who has now replaced her as Speaker. 

Few thought Pelosi would stay on in the Democratic leadership after Republicans picked up 63 seats in the midterm elections and Wednesday’s vote for Speaker highlighted tensions in the Democratic Caucus. 


Twenty Democrats did not vote for her Wednesday, with 11 backing Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) in the public roll call. That vote is in sharp contrast to the votes in 2007 and 2009 where every House Democrat supported Pelosi for Speaker. Republicans used those votes as political ammunition against Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.

Meanwhile, Pelosi’s introduction of Rep. John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio) as the new Speaker rankled some Republicans, who said they were irked that she touted the passage of healthcare reform, among other bills that President Obama signed into law during the last Congress.

Pelosi ended her historic four-year run as House Speaker with vows to work with Republicans in the new Congress, though without apology for the accomplishments of the old.

Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) called Pelosi’s address “partisan.” Another Republican lawmaker who spoke on background called it a “partisan defense of Democratic policies.”

The California Democrat — the first woman in history to rise to Speaker — passed the gavel to a tearful BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks MORE with promises that Democrats will be “a willing partner” in Republican efforts to tackle the jobs crisis and cut federal deficits. 

Her 10-minute speech bounced between a defense of Democratic ideals and congratulations to the newly empowered Republicans.

Echoing the message from other Democratic leaders this week, Pelosi said the Democrats’ top priority will be to fix the ailing economy.

“Our most important job is to fight for American jobs,” Pelosi said, “and so Democrats will judge what comes before Congress — from either side of the aisle — on whether it creates jobs, strengthens our middle class and reduces the deficit, not burdening future generations.”

If Republicans “come forward with solutions that address these American challenges,” Pelosi said, “you will find us a willing partner.”

Still, the twin objectives of job creation and deficit reduction present something of a pickle for Democratic leaders, who for two years have subscribed to the notion that the quickest way to economic recovery is to increase deficit spending.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, conceded this week that the two goals are “somewhat contradictory.”

Forty-three Democrats late last year backed Shuler in his long-shot bid to become minority leader. Pelosi easily triumphed with 150 votes in the secret ballot, though some Democrats clearly wanted to express their opposition to Pelosi in Wednesday’s vote. 

Democrats who backed Shuler were Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Jim MathesonJames (Jim) David MathesonTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Utah redistricting reform measure likely to qualify for ballot Trump's budget targets affordable, reliable power MORE (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Mike Michaud (Maine) and Mike Ross (Ark.). Shuler also voted for himself.

Reps. John BarrowJohn Jenkins BarrowRepublican wins Georgia secretary of state runoff to replace Kemp The most important runoff election is one you probably never heard of Our democracy can’t afford to cut legal aid services from the budget MORE (D-Ga.) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) backed Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindSteel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs Congress should stop tariff power grab, bring balance to US trade policy Ocasio-Cortez sparks debate with talk of 70 percent marginal rate MORE (D-Wis.) backed Cooper, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) voted for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) voted for Hoyer. 

Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.) voted for each other, drawing laughter from the packed House chamber.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr.Sanford Dixon BishopCBC dislikes Jarrett's message Administration courts CBC on Syria With eye on ending Hill gridlock, 81 lawmakers rally to back bipartisan bills MORE (D-Ga.) voted present. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Boehner did not vote. DeFazio was critical of Democratic leaders after the Nov. 2 election.

Some, if not many, of the 20 Democrats who did not support Pelosi will face challenging reelection races in 2012. These Democrats might seek to use their votes to distance themselves from Pelosi, who has low approval ratings. 

Pelosi on Wednesday indicated she has no regrets. From student loan reform to an expanded GI Bill to the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Democrats’ record in support of the middle class speaks for itself, she said. 

“As I now prepare to hand over the gavel, I know one thing above all else,” Pelosi said. “Thanks to you, we have stood for those children and for their families — for their health, their education, the safety of the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”

With Boehner at her side, Pelosi did celebrate the incoming Speaker in her address, which came four years after Boehner introduced her as Speaker. 

“Now the House will be led by a proud son of Ohio, a man of conviction, a public servant of resolve and a legislative leader of skill,” she said. “Speaker Boehner is a leader who has earned the confidence of his conference and the respect of his colleagues in the House. He is a man of faith: faith in God, faith in his country and faith in his family.”