Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in line to become Speaker in January, is throwing her support to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) in the race for Majority Leader, a move that will be an early test of her influence and will weigh heavily on Murtha's contest with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for the post.
Pelosi, in a letter distributed Sunday to newly elected House Democrats, wrote that Murtha's outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq helped change the electoral campaign for the House this fall. Murtha began calling for a U.S. pullout from Iraq a year ago, and his open opposition to the war made him a focus of intense criticism from Republicans and the White House.
Pelosi, though, credited Murtha, one of her closest allies in the House, with changing the national debate on the issue and helping provide Democratic challengers and incumbents with a winning argument for the mid-term elections.
"With respect to Iraq in particular, I salute your courageous leadership that changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election," Pelosi wrote in a personal letter to Murtha. "Your leadership gave so many Americans, including respected military leaders, the encouragement to voice their own disapproval at a failed policy that weakens our military and makes stability in that region even more difficult to achieve. The enthusiastic response of Americans all across this nation gave an enormous lift to our Democratic efforts, and your unsurpassed personal solicitations produced millions of dollars which were new to the effort. Those resources made a huge difference and particularly for the candidates on whose behalf you campaigned."
Pelosi added: "Your strong voice for national security, the war on terror and Iraq provides genuine leadership for our party, and I count on you to continue to lead on these vital issues. For this and for all you have done for Democrats in the past and especially this last year, I am pleased to support your candidacy for Majority Leader for the 110th Congress."
Hoyer released his own letter on Friday signed by 21 of the 41 incoming Democrats, and his backers claimed that at least another five new Members would support his candidacy for Majority Leader, giving Hoyer claim to a huge block of votes.
"Nancy told me some time ago that she would personally support Jack," Hoyer said in a staement. "I respect her decision as the two are very close.
"I am grateful for the support I have from my colleagues, and have the majority of the caucus supporting me. I look forward to working with Speaker Pelosi as Majority Leader."
But Pelosi's action is sure to shake up the race between Hoyer and Murtha, and is also a signal to the Bush administration and GOP Congressional leaders that she will take an aggressive line on Iraq.
Pelosi, with critical support from Murtha, defeated Hoyer in a race for Minority Whip in 2001, and sources close to the California Democrat said she wants to reward Murtha for his loyalty by backing him in the Majority Leader race.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
"Pelosi Puts Weight Behind Murtha in Leader Bid"