Pelosi backs Murtha for House Majority Leader

Playing the absolute moral authority card. Via the WaPo:

House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) yesterday as the next House majority leader, thereby stepping into a contentious intraparty fight between Murtha and her current deputy, Maryland’s Steny H. Hoyer.

The unexpected move signaled the sizable value Pelosi gives to personal loyalty and personality preferences. Hoyer competed with her in 2001 for the post of House minority whip, while Murtha managed her winning campaign. Pelosi has also all but decided she will not name the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) to chair that panel next year, a decision pregnant with personal animus.

Pelosi had been outspoken about her frustration with Murtha’s declaration that he would challenge Hoyer, currently the House minority whip, for the majority leader post long before Democrats had secured the majority. Many believed she would remain on the sidelines, just as Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) did earlier this year when three Republicans vied for the post of House majority leader.

But in her first real decision as the incoming speaker, Pelosi said she was swayed by Murtha’s early stance for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Her letter of endorsement yesterday made clear that she sees Iraq as the central issue of the next Congress and that she believes a decorated Marine combat veteran at the helm of the House caucus would provide Democrats ammunition in their fight against congressional Republicans and President Bush on the issue.

“I salute your courageous leadership that changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election. It was surely a dark day for the Bush Administration when you spoke truth to power,” she wrote. “Your strong voice for national security, the war on terror and Iraq provides genuine leadership for our party, and I count on you to lead on these vital issues.”

Murtha responded, “I am deeply gratified to receive the support of Speaker Pelosi, a tireless advocate for change and a true leader for our Party and our country.”

Pelosi’s decision could be a significant blow to Hoyer, who has worked for years to move up in the Democratic leadership. Political handicappers had regarded Hoyer to be the strong favorite when House Democrats meet Thursday to choose a majority leader for the 110th Congress. Although Murtha’s stance on Iraq has made him a hero among many grass-roots party activists, his positions against abortion and gun control have pushed many House liberals into Hoyer’s camp, including the leader of the Out of Iraq Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Here’s a refresher on the man Pelosi’s just lent her support to:

Read more via Allah, Kim Priestap, Don Surber, BCB, Dave Kopel, Rick Moran, Outside The Beltway

Related: Consider this post by AJ Strata on where the war on terror is headed with Dems in charge today’s must read.

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