Pelosi seeks sup­port in bid to win back speaker’s gavel

Op­po­si­tion seems to be fad­ing as key vote nears

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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

GETTY IM­AGES

Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to be House speaker, is con­fi­dent she will as­sume that role again, al­lies say.

Jeff Van Drew

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