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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.

Shuler’s speech to his colleagues was not combative, sources said. He opened by recounting having his young daughter sitting in his lap in 2007 when Pelosi was elected Speaker and whispering in her ear, “There’s nothing in this world that you cannot do.”

But Shuler also talked about his days as an NFL quarterback, recalling the day his coach told him that it wasn’t about him, but it was time to go. The North Carolina Democrat said at a news conference afterward that he ran to “ensure that the moderates are heard and that we have a seat at the table” and that Pelosi has made a commitment to listen.

“There was a lot of unrest in the room for several hours,” Shuler said, noting the hours of debate on whether to even hold the elections this week. “It sends a message, but in a way that is constructive.”

“I think that there’s a lot of concern in the Caucus about direction and where we go from here, and 68 votes shows significant concern,” said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (Calif.), who Pelosi has informally tapped as the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition liaison to leadership. “The Caucus will continue to do a great deal of soul-searching as it moves forward.”

Still, other Democrats were less forgiving. As Rep. Jim Matheson put it: “Same old, same old isn’t going to cut it, as far as I’m concerned. The voters spoke.”

The Utah lawmaker, another Blue Dog, is proposing a series of rules changes to limit Pelosi’s powers. On Wednesday, he agreed to put off consideration of them in exchange for a full Caucus vote, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

He wants to make elected posts of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Steering and Policy Committee and the Rules Committee chairmanships, as well as to establish two vice chairman positions on Steering and Policy to expand the Membership.

Pelosi has been called the most powerful Speaker in history and is virtually unmatched when it comes to counting votes and fundraising. And it is those very skills that many argued kept the critics from sidelining her Wednesday.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who nominated her for Minority Leader, argued: “How can we fold on her when she’s not folding on us?” according to a source.

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