Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was re-elected as leader of the House Democrats on Wednesday, clinging to power despite being blamed for her party’s losses in the House.
Her nomination as minority leader did not come easily. While 150 Democrats voted for her, a sizable bloc of 43 favored moderate Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.).
Retaining the “politically radioactive” Pelosi puts the newly weakened House Democrats further in jeopardy, said Stuart Rothenberg, of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
“The upside is [President Barack] Obama won’t be the most high-profile polarizing Democratic figure. The downside is it makes Democrats look extremely tone-deaf,” said Keli Goff, contributor to theloop21.com.
Asked why she should continue to lead, Pelosi, 70, reminded cynics, “Because I’m an effective leader, because we got the job done on health care and Wall Street reform and consumer protection.”
Also Wednesday, on his 61st birthday, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) glided to election as House Speaker, winning Pelosi’s former seat by a unanimous vote among Republicans. Boehner heralded the “dawn of a new majority.”
Experts said the Republicans’ agenda will be centered on spending and cutting taxes, with less focus on health care, as they don’t yet have the votes to repeal it.