WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday as their leader in the next Congress.
The closed-door vote — 150 for Mrs. Pelosi and 43 for Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina — lets the California congresswoman shift from House speaker to minority leader in January, despite concerns by some Democrats that the party needs new leadership after suffering huge midterm election losses.
Mrs. Pelosi has refused to take the blame and pinned party's losses on stubbornly high unemployment.
Democrats also quelled a power struggle between lieutenants Steny Hoyer of Maryland and James Clyburn of South Carolina, who vied to be Mrs. Pelosi's second-in-command. Mr. Hoyer was poised to be the Democrats' vote-counting whip, and Mr. Clyburn will serve in a newly created position as the House's No. 3 Democrat.
Both parties are holding closed-door House leadership elections Wednesday, with little controversy over who will lead the incoming Republican majority. The focus was on the fate of Mrs. Pelosi, the first woman House speaker, who was dethroned two weeks ago by voters incensed over the Democrats' handling of health care, the economy and more.
Democrats lost more than 60 House seats to Republicans, who were poised Wednesday to elect Ohio's John Boehner as speaker when the new Congress convenes in January.
In meetings over two days, Democrats vented their frustration over the election results and Mrs. Pelosi's share of the blame. She rejected it, but appeared to soothe enough of her angry colleagues by Tuesday night to ensure her election to the top post.
Still, there were hard feelings among Democrats who believe that Mrs. Pelosi is the wrong person to represent the party as it tries to rebuild in time for the 2012 elections. Mr. Shuler told reporters he's trying to make a point. After a whopping election defeat, he said, it's not wise "to go back and put the exact same leadership into place."
President Obama has invited congressional leaders of both parties to the White House, a postelection session expected this week but now put off until Nov. 30. The White House said Tuesday that Mr. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked for the delay because of scheduling conflicts in organizing their caucuses.
The week's events offered scant evidence that Democrats, who often quarrel among themselves, will become more cohesive in the wake of their 60-seat House loss.
Mr. Shuler, for instance, showed no interest in mimicking the solidarity that House Republicans displayed during the past four years, when they voted unanimously or nearly unanimously against many high-profile initiatives by Democrats, including Mr. Obama.
"It's very frustrating when I see everyone voting in bloc," Mr. Shuler told reporters, because Americans are diverse and crave bipartisan solutions.
Republicans took a different tack after the 2006 election, which cost them the House majority they had held for 12 years. Within a day, then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said he would step down as party leader in the next Congress.
House Republicans soon coalesced around Mr. Boehner, and he persuaded them to consistently oppose Democrats despite what some people saw as anti-GOP rebukes from voters in 2006 and 2008.
Mrs. Pelosi, 70, has refused to go down with the ship. She blamed this month's Democratic losses on the bad economy, not on policy decisions by her party. She said there was no reason for her to step aside.
Many House liberals support her. But a number of rank-and-file Democrats, including some left of center, are dismayed. They note that dozens of Republican House candidates ran campaigns linking their Democratic opponents to Mrs. Pelosi, who was portrayed as a hardcore liberal hopelessly out of touch with middle American values.
"She definitely hurts," said Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat, who lost his re-election bid this month. Citing former Republican House leader Tom DeLay, Mr. Taylor said in an interview: "When he realized he was a drag on leadership, he went away. Somehow the Democratic leadership didn't learn that lesson."
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Ben Evans and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.