Nancy Pelosi still has some work to do to gain back the confidence of her entire Caucus.
Nineteen Democrats, including two members of the California delegation, registered public protest votes against her leadership Wednesday by supporting another Member for Speaker. Overall, 173 Democrats supported Pelosi as House leader, while all 241 Republicans in the new majority backed Rep. John Boehner (Ohio).
The Pelosi defections highlight the work the California Democrat still must do to bring her diverse Caucus together in the wake of the Nov. 2 elections that cost her party House control. Many moderates remain unhappy with her decision to run for Minority Leader in the 112th Congress, thinking it was time for a shake-up at the top. In November, Pelosi beat back what was largely a symbolic challenge from Rep. Heath Shuler for the top Democratic job. Shuler, a leading Blue Dog Democrat from North Carolina, challenged Pelosi again Wednesday, securing 11 votes including his own. He got the backing of Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Mike Michaud (Maine) and Mike Ross (Ark.).
“This is still a reflection of what happened in November, and then, obviously, her decision to run for Minority Leader,” Shuler said following the vote.
Members who defected against Pelosi on Wednesday will judge her “based upon her performance going forward and how she can work with the moderates within the Caucus,” Shuler said.
“The proof will be based upon performance,” he said.
Should Pelosi move to the center, Shuler said he thinks some of those Democrats who lost in 2010 might have a chance at retaking their seats in two years.
Rep. Peter Welch, who voted for Pelosi, said Members who opposed her did so out of “self-preservation.”
“Some Members who did that vote came from districts where Pelosi was the victim on the receiving end of millions of dollars of anti-Pelosi materials,” the Vermont Democrat said.
Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.), a Pelosi ally, agreed, saying some Members felt they had to vote the way they did because of the conservative leanings of their districts. On a personal level, Larson said, “Pelosi has such strong support and love and affection within the Caucus, there’s no problem.”
For the most part, Pelosi sat stoically in the chamber as Member after Member announced their choice for Speaker. But at several points, she appeared surprised by the names that were called, including when fellow California Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza announced his support for Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.). (Costa returned the favor later and announced his support for Cardoza.)
Another apparent surprise came when Rep. Kurt Schrader announced his vote for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Hoyer and Pelosi, sitting next to each other, appeared to be caught off guard.