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Pelosi Expected to Retain Post as Party Leader

Despite suffering near-historic election losses this month, Democrats in the House of Representatives appear ready to keep their leadership team intact, with the liberal Nancy Pelosi of California still at the top of her party.

Both parties will hold closed-door House leadership elections Wednesday. But the main focus will involve the soon-to-be minority party, the Democrats.

Pelosi, 70, who was the nation's first female speaker, the top job in the House, has refused to go down with the ship. She blamed this month's Democratic losses on the bad economy, not on policy decisions by her party, including the passage of a massive health care bill that angered many. She said there was no reason for her to step aside.

Many House liberals support her. But a number of rank-and-file Democrats, including some left of center, are dismayed. They note that dozens of Republican House candidates ran campaigns linking their Democratic opponents to Pelosi, who was portrayed as a hardcore liberal hopelessly out of touch with middle American values.

Pelosi is expected to fend off a challenge today from conservative "Blue Dog" Democrat Heath Shuler of North Carolina, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

Pelosi appeared to soothe enough angry colleagues Tuesday to ensure her election to the leadership post in her party. Barring a surprise, she will become minority leader in January, when the new Congress convenes. The second- and third-ranking Democrats seem likely to hold their positions as well.

In meeting Wednesday, House Democrats will also likely discuss how to punish longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel, who was found guilty Tuesday of numerous ethics violations, Cordes reports.

The official punishment phase of Rangel's ethics trial is set for Thursday.

The charges included using house stationary to solicit money for a center named after him and failing to report to the IRS rent from a house in the Dominican Republic.

Republicans, meanwhile, are expected to keep Rep. John Boehner of Ohio as their leader, putting him in place to become speaker in January.

By quarreling among themselves and sticking with Pelosi, House Democrats are departing from the example set by Republicans, who quickly closed ranks around a new leader, Boehner, four years ago when they lost the majority.

Pelosi let her supporters and critics vent their emotions Tuesday at a four-hour closed meeting in the Capitol. She got an earful at times from colleagues who said a party must change leaders when it suffers the type of losses Democrats absorbed Nov. 2.

Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida was particularly pointed in his remarks, according to people present, saying Pelosi is the wrong person to represent Democrats as they try to rebuild. But others defended the San Francisco liberal, and even her toughest critics said she is likely to defeat Shuler.

Shuler told reporters he's trying to make a point. After a whopping election defeat, he said, it's not wise "to go back and put the exact same leadership into place."

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a leader of moderate Democrats, will keep the No. 2 post, lawmakers said. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House's highest-ranking black member, is in line to be elected to a new position called "assistant leader," they said. Despite the new title, he will remain the House Democrats' third-ranking leader.

Tuesday's events offered scant evidence that Democrats, who often quarrel among themselves, will become more cohesive in the wake of their 60-seat House loss.

Shuler, for instance, showed no interest in mimicking the solidarity that House Republicans displayed during the past four years, when they voted unanimously or nearly unanimously against many high-profile initiatives by Democrats, including Obama.

"It's very frustrating when I see everyone voting in bloc," Shuler told reporters, because Americans are diverse and crave bipartisan solutions.

Republicans took a different tack after the 2006 election, which cost them the House majority they had held for 12 years. Within a day, then-Speaker Dennis Hastert said he would step down as party leader in the next Congress.

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