Bill Owens voted for Nancy Pelosi for Democratic conference leader last week, but he says he might vote for Republican John Boehner for speaker of the House come January.
House Democrats met for nearly six hours on Wednesday and elected Pelosi minority leader for next year. She got 150 votes to 43 for moderate North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler.
Owens said he hadn't yet decided who he will vote for for speaker. He said it was "quite possible" he would vote for the Republican leader, Boehner; he also said he might abstain.
(Enterprise file photo)
Pelosi had been Speaker of the House, but when the next Congress convenes next year, Democrats will be a minority in the House, having lost about 60 seats. Republican challengers in races throughout the country - including in the 23rd - painted Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, as a liability and tied Democratic incumbents to her. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, was re-elected, but many Democrats in swing districts lost, including Scott Murphy, who represents New York's neighboring 20th District and was unseated by Republican challenger Chris Gibson.
Owens said he didn't consider voting for Shuler.
"When I was asked to support her (Pelosi), I said I will if she agrees to govern from the center and makes jobs her priority," Owens said. "She assured me that she would, and I made it equally clear that if she didn't, I would not support her going forward."
How did she govern before?
"Clearly, she made it very clear that she was a progressive and pushing a progressive agenda, which is one of the reasons why, on a number of issues, I stepped away from the Democratic leadership," Owens said.
Owens said he didn't think his support of Pelosi for minority leader would harm him in the 23rd District.
"The issue is two years away, and people will be able to tell by my voting record whether I went with her or didn't go with her," Owens said. "People are going to look and see what I did, versus this particular vote."
Owens also said he is "very disappointed ... in the failure of either she or Mr. Boehner to offer a compromise on the Bush tax cuts. I think that's a real failure of leadership on both of their parts."
The tax cuts will expire on Jan. 1 if action isn't taken to extend them. Most Republicans favor extending all of the tax cuts, while Democrats want to extend them for most people but not individuals making over $200,000 and couples making over $250,000 yearly.
Owens and three Democratic colleagues in the House have proposed a compromise that would include a one-year extension of the tax cuts for individuals and joint filers making under $500,000 yearly, as well as five-year extensions of the tax cuts on capital gains, qualified dividends and for individuals making under $200,000 and couples making under $250,000 yearly.
Owens said Monday he has received no feedback from the leadership on either side, and that other compromise proposals in the Senate - including one put forward by New York Sen. Charles Schumer - haven't gained any traction either. He said he didn't know if there would be a vote before Jan. 1 but would continue to push for a vote on a compromise.
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