Democrat Speaker in first defeat

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The Independent US

The Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi suffered an embarrassing rebuke from her own party when the candidate she had strongly endorsed for the second most senior post in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives was defeated.

Ms Pelosi had lobbied publicly for her ally John Murtha, the veteran Pennsylvania congressman. But he was soundly beaten by Steny Hoyer, an old foe of hers, for the job of majority leader. Mr Hoyer won by the surprisingly large margin of 149 votes to 86 in a vote among incoming House Democrats.

After the bruising fight, Mr Hoyer put an arm around Ms Pelosi, and proclaimed the two of them "a great team". For her part Ms Pelosi, who was earlier elected by her colleagues to become the first female Speaker, hailed Mr Hoyer for his "stunning victory".

But it is a blow to her authority, and the ferocity of the contest underlined how Democratic unity has already frayed, barely a week after the midterm election victory. Personal animosities are surfacing and recriminations flying. The party may have trouble maintaining the internal discipline that allowed Republicans to run Congress with such efficiency over the previous 12 years.