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Gridlocked leaders retain seats in Congress

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012

The American public may want change and compromise on Capitol Hill, but both parties moved Wednesday to retain the leadership in the House and Senate that has been gridlocked on virtually every key issue.

Barring a major surprise, the 113th Congress will convene in January with nothing changed except that the average age of the leaders in the two chambers will increase to just under 70.

Republican leaders were re-elected in both the House and Senate on Tuesday, while Harry Reid, D-Nev., was chosen to serve a fourth term as the Senate majority leader.

"I'm just going to continue to do my job, I'm not looking at the arithmetic of all that stuff," Reid told a reporter who pointed out that the former boxer is now in position to become the longest-serving majority leader aside from Mike Mansfield, who held the job for 16 years.

In the House on Wednesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced she plans to seek another term as the chamber's top Democrat when her caucus holds elections on Nov. 29. She served as speaker from 2006 to 2010.

Pelosi revealed her plans at a press conference flanked by many of the 61 women in the Democratic caucus.

She said part of her reason for running again for minority leader is to further empower women. Her caucus, she said, resoundingly approves her decision.

"My colleagues made it very clear," Pelosi said. "Don't even think about leaving."

Congressional leaders announced their intentions despite anonymous grumbling from younger lawmakers who want a chance to serve at the top but are afraid of the repercussions if they speak out about it.

Pelosi is 72, Reid will be 73 next month.

Republicans aren't much more youthful. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who plans to stay on as minority leader, is 70, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is expected to be re-elected as speaker in January, turns 63 on Saturday.

Democratic strategist Christopher Hahn said Congress has historically elevated the most senior lawmakers to leadership positions.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich managed to break the trend in the 1990s. He was elevated to the top House position in 1995 at the age of 51, leapfrogging then-GOP Minority Leader Bob Michel, who was in his 70s and who stepped aside.

"Ever since Gingrich has fallen, it's kind of gone back to the old model," Hahn said.

Waiting in the leadership wings these days are Jared Polis, D-Colo., who is 37, and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee, who is 42.

When a reporter asked Pelosi on Wednesday about the need to bring more youth to the leadership, the dozens of women standing behind her booed and shouted, "Discrimination!"

Pelosi told the reporter she thought the question was offensive.

"The fact is, everything I have done in my almost decade of leadership is to elect younger and newer people to Congress," Pelosi said.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner