Pelosi seeks support in bid to win back speaker’s gavel
Opposition seems to be fading as key vote nears
WASHINGTON – Nancy Pelosi wants to be speaker of the House again, and she has just days left to make her case.
Although Pelosi said she’s confident she will win her bid, she’s had to shore up support – even among Democratic groups that have long backed her.
In recent weeks, she spoke to Hispanic lawmakers, hosted a dinner for new Democratic members and joined African-American lawmakers addressing a conference of black activists.
Pelosi, who made history as the first female speaker of the House, faces an open rebellion from a bloc of Democratic lawmakers who signed a letter calling for a change in the “status quo” of the party’s leadership. Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, mulled a challenge for the top spot. Tuesday, Fudge announced her support for Pelosi within minutes of the Democratic leader releasing a statement that Fudge would chair a subcommittee focused on elections and voting issues. Jeff Van Drew, a newly elected Democrat from New Jersey, said he promised during the campaign he wouldn’t back Pelosi.
Pelosi’s fight for the gavel comes on the heels of Democrats picking up at least 37 seats to take control of the House after eight years under Republican rule, and that number could tick up as the remaining undecided races are called. Many of those wins came from diverse suburban districts that had once supported Donald Trump.
Pelosi courted the mostly liberal members of the Congressional Black Caucus and a group of 48 centrists called the Problem Solvers Caucus.
She met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Blue Dog Coalition, the New Democrat Coalition and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“This is the moment to leverage the agenda,” said Wendy Smooth, associate professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Ohio State. “She will get a strong message from her caucuses about the ways they would like the agenda shaped. It depends on what she’s promising in these meetings.”
Smooth said committee assignments and leadership roles are on the table.
The caucuses have lengthy wish lists from more action on climate control to protecting voting rights to immigration changes and changing rules to speed up bipartisan legislation.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said the meeting was productive and was followed up Monday in a call with Pelosi staffers to discuss the group’s “Break the Gridlock” package, which aims to encourage bipartisan cooperation. Nine Democrats from the caucus signed a letter calling for Pelosi’s support. Pelosi sent a statement last week backing the package in principle, but Gottheimer said the language wasn’t specific enough.
“I’ve been pretty clear … we’re only going to back someone who is going to break the gridlock,” Gottheimer said.
Pelosi, who served as speaker from 2007 to 2011, is likely to win the first round of voting Wednesday in the Democratic caucus’ closed-door secret election. She needs only a majority to win the nomination. To become speaker, she will need a majority of the full House and has little room to lose a significant bloc of Democrats.
Pelosi pledged to make voting rights – one of the “unifying issues” for the Democrats, according to Smooth – a priority and one of the first measures the House will vote on next session.
In a nod to one of the most diverse Congresses ever, Pelosi touted a proposal to expand a diversity initiative.
Supporters point to Pelosi’s legislative experience and ability to corral Democrats on issues and note her big role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Many Democrats campaigned on the issue in the midterms.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, Herb Jackson, Cat Hofacker
Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to be House speaker, is confident she will assume that role again, allies say.
Jeff Van Drew