- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

1:19 p.m.

Democrats today picked Rep. Steny H. Hoyer to be House majority leader, spurning Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked choice moments after unanimously backing her election as speaker when Congress convenes in January.

A 25-year veteran of Congress, Mr. Hoyer, 67, defeated Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania by a vote of 149-86.

The Maryland Democrat’s election to the No. 2 job came just a short time after the Democratic caucus put Mrs. Pelosi in line to become the first woman to be speaker, a position that is second in line of succession to the presidency.

Earlier, Mrs. Pelosi declared: “We made history, and now we will make progress for the American people.”

In remarks after being chosen for speaker, the Californian vowed that after 12 years in the minority, “we will not be dazzled by money and special interests.”

Mr. Murtha, a powerful lawmaker on defense matters, gained national prominence last year when he called for an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

He and Mrs. Pelosi have long been close, and when Mrs. Pelosi issued a statement supporting Mr. Murtha on Sunday night, it raised the stakes in a leadership election within a party that in January will take control of the House for the first time in a dozen years.

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer have long had a difficult relationship. The two ran against each other in a leadership race several years ago. Mrs. Pelosi won, but Mr. Hoyer rebounded more than a year later when he was elected the party’s whip.

His margin of victory reflected a pre-election strategy in which he showcased support from moderates, veteran lawmakers in line to become committee chairmen, and more than half of the incoming freshman class — the majority-makers whose victories on Election Day gave the party control of the House.

The intraparty battle had preoccupied Democrats, overshadowing Mrs. Pelosi’s promotion to speaker.

Many Democrats were dismayed that the family feud had broken out in the first place and objected to heavy pressure placed on long-standing supporters of Mr. Hoyer.

Mrs. Pelosi officially becomes speaker in January, succeeding Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, when the House convenes and formally elects her in the next session of Congress.

Democrats also selected Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina as majority whip, their No. 3 post. Mr. Clyburn, who is black, would become the highest-ranking member of his race ever in Congress. Campaign chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois was rewarded with the caucus chairman post, the No. 4 position for Democrats, for his efforts in leading the party back into the majority.

Meanwhile, House Republicans, soon to be in the minority for the first time since 1994, met in private today to hear presentations from candidates for their leadership posts. Their election is scheduled for tomorrow.

Finding a replacement for Mr. Hastert as the caucus leader turned into a two-man race between Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and conservative challenger Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana after Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas dropped out and endorsed Mr. Boehner.

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