WASHINGTON—Nancy Pelosi handed over the speaker’s gavel to John Boehner Wednesday and assumed her role as the top Democrat in the House, but not without competition inside her own party.
While the 241 votes in favor of Boehner were expected due to the new Republican majority in the House, 19 Democrats voted against Pelosi. The votes were scattered among seven different Democratic representatives with Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C. receiving 11, the most by far.
“Even after what happened in the last election, we’re still not being heard,” Shuler said in an interview with Roll Call, a paper that covers Congress. “The American people heard it. That’s for sure. … We think we represent the masses.” Shuler blames Pelosi for the losses Democrats took in November’s midterm elections and maintains her liberal views are too extreme to represent moderate Democrats.
When Schuler challenged Pelosi for the leadership post in a secret vote in the Democratic caucus after last fall’s election, 43 Democrats supported him, far fewer than in Wednesday’s public vote.
And while Shuler was seen as the Democrat most public about his opposition to Pelosi, Wednesday’s vote shows that he was definitely not alone. According to Politico, Democratic insiders predicted about a dozen votes against Pelosi, but no one envisioned the number of people for which these votes would be cast. Aside from Shuler, six other Democratic representatives received votes, including Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and John Lewis, D-Ga.
The extent of Democratic opposition towards Pelosi underscores the divisions within the party. As the minority leader, Pelosi says that she is willing to work with Republicans in the House in order to help the nation move forward.Today’s vote shows she has some work to do within her own caucus.
“We extend a hand of friendship to create jobs, grow the middle class and reduce the deficit,” said Pelosi while addressing the Congressional Black Caucus. “We look for common ground to solve the problems of the American people.”