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Question of the Day
Underscoring just how little has changed despite last week's elections, both chambers of Congress are poised to re-elect the same people to lead them into next year.
House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky all won renewed leases on their posts Wednesday, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California made clear she'll soon join them.
Fresh off leading her party to pick up seats — though still well short of the majority — Mrs. Pelosi said she will run for her leadership post again when House Democrats vote in two weeks.
"After the victory we had at the polls, I wouldn't think of walking away," she told reporters afterward, ending months of speculation about whether she would step down in the wake of having lost the majority two years ago and then failing to reclaim it this year.
House Republicans re-elected Mr. Boehner as speaker and gave Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Whip Kevin McCarthy of California new terms. They elected Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington to be their conference chairman, elevating a woman to their top ranks.
Senate Republicans returned Mr. McConnell to their top post, and elected Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to be their whip, replacing Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who is retiring.
Senate Democrats gave Mr. Reid a fourth term as their chief, and also re-elected his two lieutenants, Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Charles E. Schumer of New York.
Mr. Reid dismissed talk of his fourth term that gives him more time at the helm of his party than major figures such as the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
"I'm just going to continue doing my job," he said. "I've not looked at the arithmetic of all that stuff."
The four top leaders failed to reach agreements over the past year on many of the big issues facing them — expiring tax cuts, looming automatic spending cuts and basic legislation such as the farm bill and the dozen annual appropriations bills.
With voters returning a split Congress — Democrats have a majority in the Senate while Republicans kept control of the House — the four have another chance to try again.
"The American people have spoken. A week ago they decided in many ways to continue the status quo divided government," Mr. McConnell said.
But McConnell added that "divided government sometimes has done very important things for the country." He mentioned the legislative accomplishments hammered out by President Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill, such as reforming Social Security and the federal tax system, and President Clinton working with a Republican House to reform the welfare system and to balance the budget.
While three caucuses voted Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi had delayed House Democrats' vote to give her more time to decide what she wanted to do.
When Mrs. Pelosi told reporters she would run again, one asked whether she was hurting her caucus by running again at age 72, rather than stepping down and allowing a younger generation a shot at top leadership posts. She called the question "offensive."
Her bid for re-election also brought the rest of the top House Democratic leadership into focus, and the caucus likely will keep the same leaders it had after it suffered historic losses in 2010.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said he would run to be the minority whip, and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina said he would run to be assistant leader — a position created for him after the 2010 elections.
Mrs. Pelosi's hold on power despite losing the majority two years ago is not unprecedented.
Former Reps. Joseph W. Martin Jr., Massachusetts Republican, and Sam Rayburn, Texas Democrat, each flipped between speaker and minority leader several times during the mid-20th century. And James Beauchamp Clark, Missouri Democrat, was speaker for several years before his party lost control of the House in 1919, when he was elected minority leader for one term.
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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