House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will remain leaders of their caucuses despite the fact that neither has been able to recapture majority control of their respective bodies.
After some speculation on what her future might hold, the 72-year old Pelosi announced Wednesday morning that she felt compelled to remain in charge of House Democrats in order to help President Obama resolve the nation's fiscal crisis, a goal she was unable to achieve when Democrats controlled both chambers from 2009 to 2011.
"I have made the decision to submit my name to my colleagues to once again serve as the House Democratic Leader," Pelosi said with many of her female Democratic colleagues at her side.
Pelosi first announced her decision in a closed door meeting with House Democrats who seemed energized by her decision, sources told reporters who were standing outside the caucus room.
Leadership roles in both chambers are elected for two-year terms and coincide with election cycles. That means that younger members who have been waiting in the wings to enter leaderships positions must sit on their hands a while longer.
When Pelosi was asked to a reporter why she didn't step aside for younger members, the question was met with a flurry of boos and hisses from the females members surrounding her. Pelosi went on to defend her decision in part by saying she has worked hard to elect younger members to the House. In short, her answer was "no."
On the Senate side and in a similar closed-door meeting, the 45 GOP members will once again allow McConnell the opportunity to also serve another two-year term.
Although Democrats in the House picked up a handful of seats in last week's election, Senate Republicans will be down two seats when they begin their new session in January. Some pundits wondered if McConnell would step aside but he made it clear soon after the election that he wanted to continue in his leadership role. That seemed to please fellow conservatives such as Sen. Marco Rubio.
"Mitch unifies all of us, regardless of philosophy or what part of the country we come from," Rubio said of McConnell, according to a spokesman for the Florida senator. "He's the smartest political mind around and a great listener. Above all else, what Mitch cares about is whether we succeed as a conference and as a country, and that's why I'm proud to nominate him for another term as Leader."
Because there are more members in the House than the Senate, there are more members who feel they have skills and leadership qualities that would benefit the caucus. But in years past when "young guns" have tried to buck their elders from senior leadership posts, they paid a heavy price. Some examples from recent years include former Congressmen Harold Ford, Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Heath Schuler (D-N.C.).
"They soon find they weren't as cute and smart as they once were," said one former staffer who asked not to be identified. "When you try and overthrow the guard and fail, they make sure you don't get a running start the next time. You're pretty much assigned to the back row from that point on."
Sources close to Pelosi said she spent the last several weeks talking to her fellow Democrats, family and friends before she made her final decision. Not even her senior aides knew of her decision when they left the Capitol late Tuesday night.
"Being active in politics at this level is really insatiable," Pelosi, 72, said recounting a conversation she had with her brother explaining why she wants to stay on. "What I said to him was, 'There's not enough hours in the day for me. There's so much more I want to do.'"
Republicans in the House are expected to nominate House Speaker John Boehner to another two-year term and keep the other leadership posts intact as well. Republicans will see a contest in the number four spot between Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for chairmanship of the House Republican Conference.
Boehner has made it known he is supporting McMorris Rogers while conservative groups such as FreedomWorks have endorsed Price.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will retain control of the Senate.
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