House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., won the vast majority of Democratic votes for speaker, but she faces a caucus in which about one in 10 members voted publicly for someone else.
In total, 19 of the 193 Democrats elected to the 112th Congress voted for someone other than Pelosi for speaker. The defectors were: Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., John Barrow, D-Ga., Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., Dan Boren, D-Okla., Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., Jim Costa, D-Calif., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., Tim Holden, D-Pa., Ron Kind, D-Wis., Larry Kissell, D-N.C., Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Jim Matheson, D-Utah, Mike Michaud, D-Maine, Mike Ross, D-Ark., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Heath Shuler, D-N.C.
Many of the defectors came from the ranks of the Blue Dogs and have been frequent critics of Pelosi. But a surprising handful—like Giffords, Schrader, Michaud, Kind, Cardoza, and Costa—have voted reliably with leadership but broke for this pivotal vote. In fact, 10 of the 19 represent districts that were carried by President Obama in the 2008 election. But they all found themselves in tougher-than-expected reelection campaigns last year.
Shuler won 11 votes, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., won two votes, and Costa, Cooper, Cardoza, and Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Steny Hoyer, D-Md., each won a single vote. Bishop voted “present.”
One notable pro-Pelosi vote: Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., who told his local paper that if it was possible he would vote for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. He didn’t follow through on that possibility, a point the National Republican Congressional Committee immediately hammered home.
This article appears in the Jan. 6, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily.