Nancy Pelosi faces chal­lenge As house mi­nor­ity leader

Party faces two years in the mi­nor­ity

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi is fac­ing a chal­lenge from one of her cau­cus’ frus­trated younger mem­bers as the party faces another two years in the mi­nor­ity.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan said Thurs­day he will chal­lenge the Cal­i­for­nia law­maker, who has led the party since 2002 and was the first fe­male speaker from 200711, in lead­er­ship elec­tions later this month. Democrats have been reel­ing since last week when the party won fewer seats than she had pre­dicted and lost the pres­i­dency. “What we are do­ing right now is not work­ing,” the 43-year-old Ryan said in a let­ter to col­leagues. “Un­der our cur­rent lead­er­ship, Democrats have been re­duced to our small­est con­gres­sional mi­nor­ity since 1929. This should in­di­cate to all of us that keep­ing our lead­er­ship team com­pletely un­changed will sim­ply lead to more dis­ap­point­ment in fu­ture elec­tions.”

Ryan is from a Rust Belt state that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012, but Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump won Ohio eas­ily this year. Along with younger mem­bers in the cau­cus, Democrats from sev­eral Mid­west­ern states have ex­pressed con­cern that the party has be­come too fo­cused on the two coasts and for­got­ten the work­ing­class vot­ers in the mid­dle. Pelosi is from San Fran­cisco.

Num­bers and ques­tions

Well-known for her abil­ity to count votes, Pelosi is still the fa­vorite to win another term as leader. She said in an­nounc­ing her can­di­dacy on Wed­nes­day that she has the back­ing of two-thirds of the cau­cus, though Ryan ques­tioned that num­ber.

The elec­tion is Nov. 30. It had been sched­uled for Thurs­day but was post­poned un­til af­ter Thanks­giv­ing. Pelosi, 76, is a sur­vivor who en­joys enor­mous re­spect and good­will among most Democrats, even as many of her clos­est al­lies have left Congress. She has man­aged to main­tain unity within the di­verse flock of House Democrats and is an un­par­al­leled fundraiser for them, col­lect­ing more than $100 mil­lion in the past cy­cle alone.

Ryan’s bid marks the sec­ond time Pelosi has faced a chal­lenge af­ter a dis­mal Demo­cratic per­for­mance in an elec­tion. She eas­ily beat back North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler 150-43 af­ter the party lost the ma­jor­ity in 2010.

But some Demo­cratic law­mak­ers ex­pressed their frus­tra­tion in a closed door cau­cus meet­ing ear­lier Thurs­day. Rep. Kath­leen Rice, D-N.Y., said she told her col­leagues that “if we don’t, as a party, have our lead­ers ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for where we are, we can’t move for­ward and get to the point where our mes­sage is go­ing to res­onate with vot­ers.”

Rep. Ruben Gal­lego, D-Ariz., said he had is­sued a chal­lenge in the cau­cus “that any­body who is run­ning for any po­si­tion of lead­er­ship needs to come back and ex­plain to us how we’re go­ing to be able to sur­vive one, the Trump years, but two, to not have the same ex­cuse we have ev­ery two years where there’s some ex­ter­nal factor that some­how causes us to not gain the seats that we need.”

Among the frus­tra­tions for ju­nior Democrats is that sev­eral top Democrats on pow­er­ful com­mit­tees have been atop their posts for many years - well into their 80s in some cases - and are not some of the party’s most fresh and vi­brant voices. For in­stance, the top Demo­crat on the panel re­spon­si­ble for taxes and the Af­ford­able Care Act is 85-year-old Michi­gan Rep. San­der Levin, while the top Demo­crat on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is John Cony­ers, 87, who’s been in Congress for more than 50 years.

“We’ve got a cou­ple of big is­sues com­ing up, not the least of which is de­fend­ing the very strong parts of the Af­ford­able Care Act,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., a ri­val of Levin’s on the pow­er­ful panel.

Some Democrats are press­ing for term lim­its for com­mit­tee chair­men. Pelosi didn’t dis­miss the idea. ”If you want that, you have to fight for it,” Pelosi said. Pelosi was cru­cial in en­sur­ing Obama’s health care over­haul be­came law in 2010. Even in the mi­nor­ity un­der Obama, Pelosi has been a savvy ne­go­tia­tor with GOP lead­ers when Demo­cratic votes were needed to ad­vance leg­is­la­tion. “When some­body chal­lenges you, your sup­port­ers turn out, both in­ter­nally in the cau­cus and in the coun­try,” Pelosi, who has led Democrats since 2002, told re­porters at her weekly news con­fer­ence.

In­deed, her al­lies spoke strongly in her fa­vor. “She has been an ex­tra­or­di­nary leader,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, DMass. “If it weren’t for her, a lot of things that are near and dear to our hearts would have been evis­cer­ated. She’s a good ne­go­tia­tor even in the mi­nor­ity.”

On the bud­get front, House Repub­li­can lead­ers said Trump wants a short-term spend­ing bill to keep the gov­ern­ment run­ning through March of next year. The cur­rent stop­gap spend­ing bill runs out in less than a month, on Dec. 9. House and Se­nate ne­go­tia­tors are work­ing on a bill they could pass be­fore leav­ing for the hol­i­days.

WASH­ING­TON: House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia speaks at her weekly news con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill on Thurs­day.

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