Nancy Pelosi elected House speaker as Slotkin votes 'present'

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California holds the gavel after at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.

Washington — California Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the House of Representatives Thursday without the support of one of Michigan's seven House Democrats.

After pledging not to support Pelosi on the campaign trail, freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, registered as "present" after the new Congress convened Thursday, rather than casting a vote for Pelosi.

The final vote for Pelosi for speaker was 220 and 192 for Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. 

"I think it's important that for my very first vote to stick with my integrity. My voters reinforced this when I was home for the Christmas break," Slotkin said before the vote.

"She knows my views. We have a very respectful relationship," she added about Pelosi, noting they've met one-on-one.

"I believe in being up front, as I have always been on this issue since March of 2018. But I am going to remain consistent, so I will not be supporting her on the floor today." 

Last year, Slotkin, Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills, and a number of other Democratic House candidates said while campaigning they want to see a new generation take the helm.  

GOP groups spent millions of dollars during the 2018 campaign running attack ads depicting both Slotkin and Stevens as hand-picked by Democratic leadership. Pelosi's House Majority PAC spent millions of dollars defending both Slotkin and Stevens.

Elissa Slotkin, Democratic candidate for Michigan's 8th Congressional District, speaks at an election night watch party in Clarkston, early Wednesday.

Stevens voted against Pelosi in the secret-ballot in caucus in November when Pelosi ran unopposed, but had said she would vote for her on the floor if Pelosi became the nominee. Slotkin also voted against Pelosi in caucus.

Republicans wasted no time in criticizing both Slotkin and Stevens on Thursday. 

"The people of the 8th district didn’t get a vote for Speaker of the House because @ElissaSlotkin didn’t have the courage of her convictions and voted “Present”. That is a fireable offensive. #FireSlotkin," Michigan GOP consultant Jamie Roe tweeted

The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement accusing Stevens of breaking her campaign promise by voting for Pelosi.

"While Haley might have 'forgotten' about this pledge, the voters won’t. In fact, the NRCC will be sending paid text messages to targeted voters across MI-11 alerting them of her broken promise," the NRCC's Carly Atchison said in an email. 

Slotkin has called for a new leadership and for more Midwesterners in top posts, in part to combat the perception that Democrats are the party of the "coastal elite."

"I believe Democratic leaders need to speak more to issues that affect Michigan — our economy, wages, jobs, health care. But she had no competitor running against her on the Democratic side. I'm a pragmatist," Slotkin said.  

Voting "present" on the floor — rather than for someone else — lowers the threshold for the number of votes that a candidate needs to become speaker. At least one other House member voted "present" Thursday. 

Other Michigan Democrats, including freshmen members Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit voted for Pelosi. 

"For the future of our children," Tlaib said, standing to announce her vote. 

As she did so, her son Adam, 13, in the seat next to hers, executed a dance move called the "dab," prompting laughter from other members. 

Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) votes for Speaker-designate Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) while her son does a dance move  during the first session of the 116th Congress, Thursday at the U.S. Capitol.

Six of Michigan's seven House Republicans voted for McCarthy.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, voted for fellow libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky. His vote was met by a "boo" in the chamber. 

Other names who got votes for speaker included former Vice President Joe Biden, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois.