Pelosi tries to soothe unhappy House Democrats

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fractious House Democrats feuded Tuesday over their leader’s refusal to step aside after massive election losses, and some signaled they will compromise with Republicans over the next two years. In contrast, Republicans who won control of the House and strengthened their power in the Senate further closed ranks.

GOP discipline was on stark display as Senate Republicans unanimously voted to ban earmarks — lawmakers’ pet projects for their states and districts — in spending bills, heeding the message tea partiers delivered Nov. 2 about their frustration with government and deficit spending. The vote occurred a day after Republican leader Mitch McConnell switched sides on the issue.

In contrast to the Republican unity, Democrats stung by the loss of their House majority let their members vent their emotions in a fourhour closed meeting before Wednesday’s scheduled vote on keeping Nancy Pelosi as their leader.

“One thing the Republicans are very good at: They set goals, they set objectives and they set a way to get there,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., told reporters.

Pelosi, who is poised to move from House speaker to minority leader in the next Congress, got an earful Tuesday from some rank-and-file colleagues who said a party must change leaders when it suffers the type of losses Democrats absorbed on Nov. 2.

Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida was particularly pointed in his remarks, according to people present, saying Pelosi is the wrong person to represent Democrats as they try to rebuild.

But others defended the San Francisco liberal, and even her toughest critics said she is likely to be elected as House Democratic leader in Wednesday’s closed-door elections.

Rep. Heath Shuler, a moderate from North Carolina, said he knows he will lose the election to Pelosi but wants to make the case that, after a whopping defeat, it’s not wise “to go back and put the exact same leadership into place.”

House Democrats appeared to iron out enough differences to prevent a revolt by black members who wanted Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C, to claim the party’s second-ranking leadership post, called the whip.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a leader of moderate Democrats, will keep the No. 2 post, lawmakers said. Clyburn, the House’s highest-ranking black member, is in line to be elected to a new position called “assistant leader,” they said. Despite the new title, he will remain the House Democrats’ third-ranking leader.

As humorist Will Rogers noted long ago, Democrats have a legacy of unruliness and discord. Tuesday’s events offered scant evidence that the party will become more cohesive in the wake of its 60-seat House loss.

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