Rep. Bill Owens is now telling a local newspaper that he was just “blowing off steam” when he suggested this week that he might vote for Republican Speaker-designate John Boehner on the floor in January.
The New York Democrat, who took office last year and won his first full term on Nov. 2, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on Monday that he would consider abstaining or voting for the Ohio Republican rather than backing outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi — as most Democrats are expected to do — when the roll call vote for Speaker is taken at the start of the new Congress.
But Owens backtracked Tuesday, calling the paper back and saying in a voicemail message that he would vote for the California Democrat — whom he supported for Minority Leader in last week’s Caucus elections — as long as she agreed to govern from the center and focus on jobs, according to a blog post on the paper’s website.
Owens told the paper that he made his earlier comments because he was angry over not having heard back from Pelosi or Boehner about a compromise proposal he’d put forth for dealing with the Bush-era tax cuts that expire at year’s end. He is part of a group of Democratic lawmakers that are calling for a five-year extension of tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year and a one-year extension for anyone making less than $500,000 a year.
Owens’ suggestion that he would consider backing Boehner is the latest sign that frustration with Pelosi is still simmering among pockets of her rank-and-file. Pelosi handily won a race for Minority Leader on Nov. 17, despite 43 defectors who backed Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.). A handful of Democrats have said they will vote for Shuler instead of Pelosi on the floor in January, and nearly two dozen Democrats said publicly before the election that they would prefer that someone more moderate than Pelosi lead House Democrats.