Pelosi survives moderates' rebellion

Photo by Harry Hamburg

Photo by Harry Hamburg

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Beating back an uprising from moderate Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, Nancy Pelosi won election Wednesday to serve as house minority leader in the 112th Congress.

Pelosi defeated her only challenger, Rep. Heath Schuler, D-NC, 150-43.

Many in the Democratic Caucus pointed to the former speaker as a reason for the party's rout in this month's midterm elections, the Democrats' largest loss of seats since 1938. Pelosi, however, refused to shoulder any blame, pinning the losses instead on the economy and high unemployment.

Earlier in the day, Pelosi had survived a vote to delay the election of party leadership until December. After the vote for the delay was defeated, Bishop issued a statement saying he would not support Pelosi's bid to be minority leader.

"In the Book of Ecclesiastics, it is written 'for every thing there is a season,'" Bishop said before the leadership vote was taken. "After prayerful reflection and numerous conversations with constituents who both supported and opposed my re-election, it is with a heavy heart that I have concluded that Speaker Pelosi's season has passed.

"Consequently, I cannot in good conscience support her (Pelosi) nomination as House minority leader for the 112th Congress."

Hard feelings remain among Democrats who believe that Pelosi is the wrong person to represent the party as it tries to rebuild in time for the 2012 elections.

The 43 votes against Pelosi, taken in secret ballot, are are a gauge of the bloc of Democrats who oppose her remaining in leadership.

"Given the fact that we suffered substantial losses in the election, I think a new face is needed for leadership of the Democratic Caucus.," Bishop said. "For this reason, I will not vote for Speaker Pelosi as House Minority Leader. I will be supporting an alternative candidate with somber thoughts of my moderate to conservative colleagues who were battered into defeat by her image in countless 30-second spots."

Bishop had the closest race of his 18-year congressional career on Nov. 2, defeating Coolidge Republican Mike Keown by 4,847 votes -- a win margin of less than 3 percent -- in a Second Congressional District that has long been seen as safe for Democrats. In the adjacent Eighth District, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Macon, was ousted by state Rep. Austin Saxon, R-Tifton, who won with a little more than a 5 percent margin. Marshall openly tried to distance himself from Pelosi during his campaign and publicly vowed to not support her for speaker if he was returned to Congress for a new term.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., was elected House whip while James Clyburn, D-S.C., will serve in a newly created position as the House's No. 3 Democrat.