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Pelosi wins Democratic leadership fight

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Pelosi wins Democratic leadership fight
  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi wins election as the Democratic House leader
  • Rep. John Boehner wins election as the GOP House leader -- and likely the next speaker
  • Shuler calls his contest with Pelosi a fight to ensure Democratic moderates are heard
  • Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn retain the second and third Democratic slots

Washington (CNN) -- House Democrats voted Wednesday to make Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, their leader for the 112th Congress, overcoming objections from moderates who argued that she was partly responsible for the party's overwhelming defeat at the polls two weeks ago.

Republicans, who won a net gain of at least 61 seats in the elections, will control the House next year. They unanimously chose to be led once again by veteran Ohio Rep. John Boehner, now in line to inherit the speaker's gavel from Pelosi.

Pelosi turned back a challenge from North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, a member of the party's diminished centrist "Blue Dog" faction, in a 150-43 vote. The speaker -- now set to be House minority leader in January -- retained the solid support of party liberals, who have noted her fundraising prowess and past ability to lead congressional Democrats to power, among other things.

An earlier motion to delay the Democratic leadership vote until December 8 was easily defeated in a 68-129 vote. Some rank-and-file members were seeking more time to "fully understand the causes of our historic losses" in the midterm elections, according to the resolution.

One senior Democratic aide called support for the resolution "a proxy vote" against Pelosi.

Addressing reporters after her election, Pelosi said the message Democrats got on Election Day is that people "want jobs." Chalking up Democratic losses to the 9.6 unemployment rate, she said Democrats would "strive to work together, wherever possible, in a bipartisan way" on both job creation and deficit reduction.

Secret ballot fails to delay election
Pelosi 'the face that defeated us'

Pelosi brushed aside a question about her low national approval ratings. "I'd like to see what your (approval) ratings would be" if $75 million in negative ads had been spent against you, she told one reporter.

Speaking earlier, Shuler claimed the Democratic leadership contest "wasn't about winning or losing." It was about ensuring "moderates are heard within the [Democratic] caucus and that we have a seat at the table," he said.

Democrats avoided a contentious fight for the No. 2 slot between the more moderate Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer -- the current House majority leader -- and the more liberal South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, now the majority whip.

Under a deal brokered by Pelosi, Hoyer will become the minority whip in the next Congress -- the second Democratic slot -- while Clyburn will serve as assistant leader, a newly created third Democratic position.

Connecticut Rep. John Larson remains Democratic caucus chairman, with California Rep. Xavier Beccera rounding out the top leadership as caucus vice chair.

Some defeated Blue Dog members argued that by retaining Pelosi and the rest of the current leadership, Democrats were making it tougher to recapture the House in the near future.

Pelosi is "the face that defeated us in this last election," Florida Rep. Allen Boyd told CNN. "It seems to me that at some point you have to put your personal agenda and ambitions aside for the good of the country and certainly the party."

"I don't know how we go into these districts like the one I represented ... and recruit good moderate Democrats if you have the same leadership," he said.

On the Republican side of the aisle, Boehner will be followed by Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor -- soon to be majority leader. California Rep. Kevin McCarthy is slated to become majority whip, with Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling filling the fourth slot.

The massive 80-plus-member GOP freshman class will have two representatives in the party's leadership -- South Dakota's Kristi Noem and South Carolina's Tim Scott -- one of two new African-American House Republicans.

Boehner, who marked his 61st birthday Wednesday, will have to balance competing interests within the suddenly swollen ranks of his party's caucus. The incoming speaker will have to work with the Obama administration on various legislative priorities while also placating Tea Party activists who won seats on a platform of opposing the White House and sticking to strict conservative principles.

"This is the dawn of a new majority," Boehner said. "One I believe will be humbler, wiser, and more focused than its predecessors on the priorities of the people."

"And what (the people) want is a smaller, less costly, more accountable government," he concluded. "More jobs, less spending. It's that simple."

CNN's Ted Barrett, Alan Silverleib, Eliott McLaughlin, Deirdre Walsh, Dana Bash, Evan Glass and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report