House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today was overwhelmingly elected by the Democratic Caucus to serve as House Minority Leader in the next Congress.
Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in January 2007, coming closer than any other woman to the presidency itself: The speaker of the House is second in line of succession, behind the vice president. According to Bloomberg News, She “earned a reputation as one of the most powerful speakers since Sam Rayburn, the legendary Texas Democrat who held that position for 17 years before his death in 1961.”
She muscled through an overhaul of the U.S. health-care system, an economic stimulus package, the biggest changes in financial regulations since the Great Depression, and legislation that would curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Without Pelosi in power, it is doubtful that as much would have gotten done under President Obama as has been achieved to date. In an interview with Bloomberg, Michael Munger, a political science professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, called her “the iron fist inside the silk glove when it came to the use of power.”
Pelosi had only one challenger, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat Heath Shuler (D-NC). Shuler, a former football player, is anti-choice, supported the Stupak Amendment in the health reform bill and then voted against the bill in the end anyway, and is affiliated with the “secret society” C-Street clique.
Shuler claimed that Pelosi’s “controversial public image and low approval ratings” were a liability to Democrats looking ahead to 2012.
Many progressives reject that argument and instead maintain that the Democrats generally have lost ground because they have failed to advance a solidly progressive agenda or to consistently articulate their values or principles and act on them.
The Washington Post reports that Pelosi won over Shuler in a secret vote by a margin of 150 to 43.
The Post also noted that Pelosi did not speak before the vote, according to Democratic aides in the room.
She was nominated for the post by a quartet of lawmakers who covered the regional and ideological make-up of the caucus. Three members of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, which was cut in half by the midterm election, spoke on Shuler’s behalf, followed by an attempt at unifying the caucus by the former Redskins quarterback.
“At the end of the day, we have to come together as a party to win together,” Shuler said, according to one senior aide.
With this victory, Pelosi will become the first speaker to move into the position of minority leader since Joseph Martin (R-Mass.) in 1955.