House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is consulting with her Democratic colleagues about her political future after their party suffered the biggest loss of seats in more than 70 years and Republicans won control of the chamber.
“She’ll make an announcement when she’s ready,” her spokesman, Brendan Daly, said yesterday, as two House Democrats called on Pelosi to prepare to leave the leadership.
“We need to shake things up,” Democratic Representative Jim Matheson, co-chairman of the fiscally conservative House Blue Dog Coalition, said in an interview yesterday. Matheson of Utah and Democratic Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina said the loss of at least 60 House seats is too steep to keep Pelosi, of California, at the helm as minority leader when a new session of Congress starts in January.
“I’m convinced she realizes this” and will leave, said Shuler. He said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland has the inside track to replace her as top leader should she decide to step aside.
Pelosi, the highest-ranking woman in U.S. politics, hasn’t announced whether she will run for minority leader. She said on ABC’s “World News Tonight” Nov. 3 that she has “no regrets” and is considering her options. She became the first female House speaker four years ago.
Support for Pelosi
Representative Lynn Woolsey, a California Democrat, defended Pelosi, saying that although the speaker hasn’t given her any indication of what she might do, Pelosi could count on her support if she runs for minority leader.
The Republican Party’s gain in the House is its biggest since the 1938 election, when Democrats lost 72 seats. Republicans, who lost the majority of the House and Senate in the 2006 elections, also picked up at least six seats in the Senate, short of the 10 needed for a majority.
Woolsey said Pelosi deserves credit for pushing through landmark legislation like this year’s health-care overhaul and the 2009 economic stimulus.
“What we achieved the first 19 months of Obama’s administration wouldn’t have happened without her,” Woolsey said.
Texas Democrat Gene Green said Pelosi “was an issue in everybody’s campaign” because Republicans “nationalized the election.”
Pelosi sent members a “non-definitive” letter yesterday recounting the Democratic Congress’s achievements without signaling what she might do, Green said in a telephone interview last night.
“I really don’t know,” what she should do, said Green, who wants to talk to other members before forming his preference. Pelosi’s comments in the ABC interview were a solicitation of members’ views on what she should do, he said. The speaker’s letter didn’t invite members’ input, he said.
Her decision may not be made until after Democrats caucus the week after next, Green said.
“It might be better if she made the decision” herself “so we don’t have a battle” for leadership, he said.
Doug Schoen, a Democratic strategist, said he thinks it unlikely Pelosi will want or be able to continue as Democratic leader in a House dominated by Republicans.
‘Ideology and Sentiment’
Hoyer, if he emerges as minority leader, would be better suited “by ideology and sentiment” to strike a more conciliatory tone, said Schoen, who advised President Bill Clinton when he ran for re-election in 1996.
Shuler, who last week said he would run against Pelosi if the party held its majority to provide a more moderate leader, said she’s a “phenomenal” party fundraiser. Still, he said she’s too much of a lightning rod with voters in swing districts.
“Republicans kept trying to tie everyone to her, and that makes it very difficult to go into these moderate districts and recruit candidates,” Shuler said.
Matheson said that while Pelosi isn’t completely to blame for Democrats’ losses, she ignored party moderates’ pleas to make changes in the agenda. He cited the House debate last year over legislation to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the economy should have been at the forefront.
“A lot of us were warning about that for two years,” Matheson said.
The House Democratic losses, described by President Barack Obama as a “shellacking,” particularly hit Democrats from Republican-leaning districts, including House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt of South Carolina and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri. Almost two dozen of the 53 members of the Blue Dog Coalition were defeated.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at Msilva34@bloomberg.net.