Republicans pick Boehner, Democrats pick Pelosi in House leadership votes

By Jon H. Harsch

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Washington, Nov. 17 - In separate party leadership votes for continuity Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) each were confirmed to lead their respective parties. The votes mean Boehner is in line to become speaker for the new Congress when it convenes Jan. 3, with Pelosi set to be minority leader.

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Echoing the Republican and Democratic Senate leadership selections Tuesday which confirmed Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV) respectively, the House leadership teams remain intact. But while Boehner faced no opposition in the Republicans' meeting, in the Democrats' caucus Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) racked up a surprisingly strong 43 votes against 150 for Pelosi. Schuler noted afterwards that the 43 votes showed there were more than just Blue Dog conservative Democrats voting for a change in party leadership. In fact, an earlier 129-68 caucus vote to postpone the Democrats' leadership election showed even stronger support for the Blue Dogs' position that the party's heavy midterm elections losses should have triggered leadership changes.

One sign that there may be similar right-wing rumblings within Republican ranks is that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell reversed his earlier stand by agreeing this week to support the Tea Party demand for ending the practice of having members add costly “earmarks” to legislation to fund projects in their home states. Another sign that Republican leaders may be still looking for the best way to do business with their new Tea Party colleagues is that Boehner postponed Wednesday afternoon's scheduled press conference. The press conference was intended to showcase the Republican's new leadership team. The need to satisfy Tea Party Republicans that they will have a significant role in the new Congress may have played a part in the postponement.

Another possible signal that Republicans may need more time to adjust to the Tea Party's arrival is the postponement of President Obama's planned meeting at the White House Thursday with both Republican and Democratic congressional leaders. The meeting has been pushed back to Nov. 30, according to the White House, “at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner due to scheduling conflicts.”

In announcing the Democrats' recycled leadership team, Pelosi said that “I am proud to be part of this leadership team. Our consensus is that we go out there listening to the American people. It's about jobs. It's about reducing the deficit. And it's about fighting for the middle class. So I look forward to doing that with this great leadership team.”

Meanwhile Boehner told the House Republicans who picked him as leader that “The job of the next speaker is to work to restore the institution. Restore it to being the people's House. It's not about us. It's about them. And what they want is a smaller, less costly, more accountable government. More jobs, less spending. It's that simple.”

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