Is Pelosi in trouble in her bid to take back her speakership in the House? She just might be.
Sixteen Democrats vowed Monday to oppose Nancy Pelosi for speaker on the House floor, throwing the California Democrat’s bid to reclaim the gavel in serious jeopardy.
In a highly anticipated letter that went public Monday, the Democrats praised Pelosi as “a historic figure” but argued that it is time for a change at the top.
“Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington,” the group of Democrats said in the letter. “We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise.”
The show of force underscores the depth of the challenge facing Pelosi, who has led the caucus for 16 years. Pelosi needs 218 votes among lawmakers present and voting to be elected speaker on Jan. 3. House Democrats have won 233 seats, meaning Pelosi can currently afford to lose only 15 votes.
16 on the letter means they have the power to stop her unless she gets votes from Republicans. The 16 include 11 incumbents and 5 incoming freshmen. There have also been three other members who have said in the past they want new leadership – Reps. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Jason Crow of Colorado.
But the opposition hasn’t seemed to have coalesced behind any viable replacement although names like Rep. Marcia Fudge have been thrown out there.
Monday’s letter, however, suggests that Pelosi’s pressure campaign to wrestle the needed votes has so far fallen short, though her allies note that they still have more than a month to crank up the heat and get these critics in line.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), one of the group’s ringleaders, dismissed the criticism that only a handful of caucus members publicly signed onto the letter. Rice told POLITICO that Pelosi is likely to win a closed-door caucus vote next week — which only requires a majority of members to vote in her favor — but that the members vowing to oppose the California Democrat plan to stand firm on the floor.
“The fact of the matter is she might get the overwhelming votes of the caucus votes but there are enough votes to stop her from becoming speaker — and that’s really all that matters,” Rice said of Pelosi. “And she knows that.”
In addition to Rice, letter signers are Democratic Reps. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Seth Moulton (Massachusetts), Ed Perlmutter (Colorado), Kurt Schrader (Oregon), Filemon Vela (Texas), Bill Foster (Illinois), Brian Higgins (New York), Stephen Lynch (Massachusetts), Linda Sánchez (California) and Jim Cooper (Tennessee), as well as Reps.-elect Jeff Van Drew (New Jersey), Joe Cunningham (South Carolina), Max Rose and Anthony Brindisi of New York, and candidate McAdams.
Pelosi has reportedly made some inroads with some of the folks who ran on change and even promised to back “new leadership.” But others, like Jeff Van Drew said he would not change his mind.
But it stands to reason that this gives the group some power over her to make a deal if she wants the vote to go through without Republicans.
Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a Pelosi critic who is considering a bid for speaker as well, suggested to POLITICO in a Friday interview that Pelosi could possibly win her support should the Californian declare that she will serve for only one more term. Fudge had signed an earlier version of the letter but apparently has withdrawn her signature; she was not on the letter released Monday.
“We talked about some succession plan,” Fudge said after meeting with Pelosi on Friday to discuss her potential challenge to the leader. Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus were trying to broker peace between the two. “I’d like to know what her plans are [for retirement]. She did not share them with me. But I think that it is something that our caucus is interested in finding out.”