WASHINGTON – Four Democrats, all southern conservatives, declined to vote for their new leader Nancy Pelosi when the House re-elected Speaker Dennis Hastert at the opening of the new session of Congress.
Hastert, R-Ill., who succeeded Newt Gingrich as Speaker in 1998, defeated Pelosi, D-Calif., on a partyline 228-201 vote.
Hastert voted present, as did three Democrats -- Ralph Hall and Charles Stenholm of Texas and Ken Lucas of Kentucky. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., voted for one of the party's senior members, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, as he did two years ago when Hastert was chosen Speaker over then-Democratic leader Dick Gephardt.
Taylor "has said in the past that Murtha is a pro-defense,n a Democrat but stressed "I have strong disagreements with some of my party's national leadership on issues important to me."
Pelosi, the first woman ever to lead a party in Congress, is one of the party's more liberal lawmakers, but has sought to assure conservative Democrats that she will represent the views of all its members.
It is not uncommon for several House members to dissent on the vote for Speaker. In 1997, four Republicans declined to vote for Gingrich, casting their votes for other Republicans, while five Republicans voted present.