- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2010

Despite President Obama’s portrayal of Tuesday’s congressional elections as a “shellacking” for Democrats, the party’s congressional leadership team is shaping up to be more of the same.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, forced out as speaker as a result of midterms, announced Friday she will run for House minority leader. And several of her deputies, including Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, James E. Clyburn and John B. Larson, also say they again will seek or consider running for leadership posts.

In the Senate, Democrats Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Charles E. Schumer of New York, top deputies to and potential rivals with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said they will support the Nevadan in his quest to retain the chamber’s top Democratic spot.

Members of Congress of both parties are expected to vote on leadership positions soon after they return to Washington next week. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, is expected to be elected speaker when the new Congress convenes in January.

Mrs. Pelosi’s decision to seek the House’s top Democratic leadership position is a bold step, given her party’s resounding election defeat. Yet the liberal Californian appears to have the inside track on becoming minority leader, as several members have vowed to support her. Several moderate Democrats who said before the elections they may oppose a Pelosi leadership quest also lost Tuesday, which means the caucus will be more liberal heading into 2011.

Longtime ally and fellow California Rep. George Miller said she supports Mrs. Pelosi’s bid to continue leading the caucus, calling her “the single most effective member of Congress, period.”

“We did not lose seats in this last election because the Republicans attacked her in their negative TV ads,” Mr. Miller said. “We lost seats primarily because of the 9.6 percent unemployment rate and continued record foreclosures caused by the worst recession since the Great Depression.”

Rep. Jared Polis, freshman Democrat who represents Colorado’s liberal 2nd Congressional District, said, “The speaker has led the Democrats out of the wilderness before, and I am confident she can do it again.”

But Rep. Dan Boren, a conservative Oklahoma Democrat, said he would support someone more conservative for Democratic leader.

“I just think we need to move in a new direction,” Mr. Boren told Fox News. “We can’t afford to be so partisan. We could find a leader much more to the middle.”

Mr. Boren said he was surprised she is running, adding that “she’s got a little time to retire gracefully.”

One possible Pelosi opponent is Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who has said in recent weeks that he may challenge her for House party leadership.

While Democrats made impressive gains in the House during much of Mrs. Pelosi’s leadership tenure, the party has had a net loss of seats during her eight years as the top House Democrat.

When Mrs. Pelosi became House minority leader in early 2003, Democrats held 205 seats in the chamber — 24 fewer than Republicans. By early 2009, two years after she assumed the House speaker’s role, Democrats were comfortably in the majority with 255 members — a 50-seat gain in six years.

But as House Democrats lost at least 60 seats on Tuesday — with a handful of contests still too close to call — the party will begin the 112th Congress in January with the fewest House seats since before Mrs. Pelosi became the chamber’s top Democrat almost eight years ago.

In a letter to her Democratic House colleagues announcing her decision to run for minority leader, Mrs. Pelosi said “our work is far from finished.”

“Many of our colleagues have called with their recommendations on how to continue our fight for the middle class, and have encouraged me to run for House Democratic leader,” she said. “Based on those discussions, and driven by the urgency of protecting health care reform, Wall Street reform, and Social Security and Medicare, I have decided to run.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Friday that he is considering a run for House Democratic whip, a move that would clear the path for Mrs. Pelosi.

“I have received an outpouring of support from Democratic colleagues who have told me that I should remain in our party’s leadership, so that our caucus can hit the ground running with a strong, tested leadership team,” the Maryland Democrat said in a prepared statement.

But current House Democratic Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina said Friday he intends to seek re-election to the post.

Rep. John B. Larson of Connecticut also said Friday that he will seek re-election as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, another key position in the party’s hierarchy.

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