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Pelosi Inches Closer to Unifying Caucus

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Outgoing Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi leave the Cannon Caucus Room on Wednesday after Members elected them to serve in the Nos. 1 and 2 minority leadership positions in the 112th Congress.

Just moments after nearly a quarter of her Caucus voted to fire her as their leader Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi vowed to make things right.

The soon-to-be ex-Speaker beat back a challenge from Rep. Heath Shuler to serve as Minority Leader in the next Congress, with Members voting for her, 150-43. And while Pelosi still wasn’t prepared to accept blame for her party’s loss of the House majority on Nov. 2, she used her acceptance speech to work toward party unity.

“I thank Congressman Shuler for the gentleman he is,” Pelosi told her Caucus after the vote, according to a senior aide. “I look forward to working with him and his supporters.”

Shuler said before the election that his candidacy was merely symbolic; he said he was running to send a message that it was time for a change after the Nov. 2 election that cost Democrats the majority.

Pelosi later told the press that she and her leadership team brought Democrats to victory in 2006 and would do so again.

But repairing the rifts in the Caucus won’t be easy. In addition to the 43 votes for Shuler, 68 returning Democrats effectively registered a vote of no confidence to Democratic leadership by asking them to delay Wednesday’s elections until December. Reps. Peter DeFazio and Marcy Kaptur, who led the effort, said Members needed time to digest the midterm outcome.

Pelosi has blamed the Democrats’ defeat on the 9.6 percent unemployment rate — not her leadership in particular. And she argued that a $75 million attack ad campaign has led to her low poll ratings.

“Let me put that in perspective: How would your ratings be if $75 million was spent against you?” she asked a reporter after the Caucus vote.

Pelosi said Democrats know she is an effective leader.

Aides said Pelosi, who has led the Caucus for eight years, has reached out to nearly every Democratic Member since Election Day, including the new and defeated, to try to bring them together. Republicans gained at least 61 seats in the midterms, and some Democrats fear many of those seats may be lost for good.

The losses have fueled Pelosi’s critics in questioning her leadership and suggesting that now is time for a shake-up. And at Wednesday’s vote, Shuler and other detractors pressed Pelosi to take a more inclusive approach to governing.

“At the end of the day, we have to come together as a party to win together,” Shuler said, according to a source in the Caucus room.

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