Nineteen Democrats — including two California Members — registered protest votes against Nancy Pelosi’s leadership and publicly supported another candidate for Speaker during Wednesday’s floor vote.
The defections suggest that a significant number of Democrats are still wary of Pelosi’s leadership two months after the party lost control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Pelosi decided to stand for Minority Leader in the 112th Congress despite calls from some in the Caucus’ moderate ranks for her to step aside.
In Wednesday’s Speaker vote, 11 Democrats supported Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Shuler challenged Pelosi for Minority Leader in November; he lost but received nearly one-quarter of the Caucus’ 43 votes.
Pelosi suffered more defections than then-embattled-Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) did in 1997 when nine Republicans either voted present or supported another GOP Member for Speaker.
All of the chamber’s 241 Republicans voted Wednesday to elect John Boehner (R-Ohio) as Speaker.
Reps. Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza — Pelosi’s home-state lawmakers — voted for each other.
Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.) voted for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Rep. Kurt Schrader (Ore.) voted for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) voted for Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.). Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.) voted present, while Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) did not vote.
“The voters have demanded a more moderate Congress and we should respect that request by electing a centrist Member of Congress to serve as Speaker,” Ross, a fellow Blue Dog leader, said in a statement. “We must also choose someone who has a history of working with Members of both parties to achieve bipartisan, commonsense solutions.”
Pelosi sat in the chamber during the Speaker voting and appeared surprised as some of her Democratic colleagues shouted other Members’ names for Speaker. Asked about the defections, Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said, “Democrats are looking forward and our top priority is creating jobs for the American people. As we begin the 112th Congress, each proposal will be measured by a simple test: Will it create jobs? Will it strengthen our middle class? Will it reduce the deficit?”