Facing his first big test as an incoming member of Congress, Democrat Max Rose voted against Nancy Pelosi in a preliminary vote for Speaker of the House and then defended his action on the grounds that he was keeping a promise he made to constituents during the campaign.
Rose’s vote, which took place in a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill on Nov. 28, raised eyebrows in Brooklyn political circles.
But Rose, who will officially take office representing the 11th Congressional District in early January, said that by voting against Pelosi, he was simply following through on a campaign promise.
“Today, I kept my promise to my constituents and did not vote in favor of Leader Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House of Representatives. If we are going to rebuild trust in the Democratic Party, we need to show the American people that we’ve heard their call for change and that means new leadership,” Rose said in a statement released the day of he vote.
Rose also vowed to vote to reject Pelosi again when the final vote for Speaker is taken by the full House on Jan. 3.
The preliminary vote, which Pelosi won handily, was to place her name in nomination for the position. Rose was one of 32 Democrats in the caucus who voted against her. Pelosi won the nomination by a vote of 203-32.
Pelosi, who served as Speaker from 2006 to 2010, is currently the House Democratic leader. She is in line to become the next Speaker of the House due to the fact that the Democrats won the majority of seats in the House in the Nov. 6 election.
Rose, a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan in November. The 11th Congressional District covers several neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn as well as the entire borough of Staten Island.
During the campaign, Rose repeatedly talked about the need for new people to take the lead in moving the Democratic Party forward.
“The Democratic party needs new leadership. There is no silver bullet. We need new, big, bold initiatives,” he told this newspaper during an interview last spring.
Voting for Pelosi would have meant going back on his word, Rose said. “Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites have been lied to enough and that’s not who I am or ever will be,” he said in his statement.
Political observers on the Brooklyn side of the congressional district debated whether Rose was taking a bold stance or was opening himself to possible retribution should Pelosi prevail.
As Speaker, she would hold sway over House members seeking assignments on high-profile committees.
“I think he was foolish,” said one observer. “You have to be aware of the power centers in Washington and Pelosi is a power center. She could make life hard for him by making sure he doesn’t get any good committees or any extra money for his district.”
Bob Capano disagreed with that assessment. Capano, who is now chairperson of the Brooklyn Reform Party, is a former Republican who worked for GOP Congressmembers Vito Fossella and Bob Turner when they were in office.
“I don’t think this is going to bother Pelosi one bit. During the campaign, she told Democrats running for House seats ‘Do whatever you’ve got to do to win.’ She knew there would be some candidates who would be telling voters that they don’t like her. She gave them cover,” Capano told this newspaper.
Besides, Capano said, Rose would have been bombarded with criticism if he had voted for Pelosi.
“He talked about the need for change a lot on the campaign trail. It was kind of a focus of his campaign. And you have to keep your campaign promises. You can’t go back on your word. Voters remember things like that,” Capano said.
If Pelosi was bothered by the defections Rose and other Democrats, she didn’t show it, according to media reports coming out of Washington.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape. I don’t want to make other people’s announcements for them, but we go forward with confidence and humility,” the New York Times quoted Pelosi as saying shortly after the caucus voted.