Nancy Pelosi says she will be speaker, isn’t sweating discontent
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said she’s not sweating a potential revolt from incoming and existing Democratic members who romped to victory on election night, as lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol stood by old captains or sought new leadership for the new Congress.
“I would just say that I’m going to be speaker,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters as she exited a closed-door caucus meeting at the Capitol.
Mrs. Pelosi is charming members and touting letters of support for her bid to assume the gavel for a second time. Prominent Democrats said there isn’t a viable opponent to her, anyway.
“There’s overwhelming support for Leader Pelosi to be speaker of the House everything I’ve seen, she has the votes,” Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, New Mexico Democrat who led midterm campaign efforts. “There’s no announced opponent that I’m aware of.”
Yet a small group of Democrats said the fight is just getting started, so alternatives could emerge if it becomes clear that Mrs. Pelosi cannot corral the votes.
“I think there are members who are waiting to see what happens. There are different phases to this,” Rep. Brian Higgins, a Connecticut Democrat who said he will not support Mrs. Pelosi in a preliminary caucus vote or on the floor.
Some of the rebel Democrats want to change the rules so that any candidate for speaker needs 218 in a preliminary caucus vote to be the party’s choice for speaker on the floor in January, rather than a majority of Democrats. They think there are enough votes in opposition to brush aside Mrs. Pelosi, before a nasty fight spills onto the floor.
The push, which will likely be discussed by Democrats Wednesday afternoon, is giving the marquee fight a load of intrigue even as other caucuses take a more straightforward approach to leadership.
Senate Republicans selected Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to stay on as majority leader Wednesday, while Democrats tapped Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York to lead them in the minority for another two years.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will try to fend off a conservative challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio on Wednesday, as Republicans select someone to help them weather the minority.
A contingent of anti-Pelosi Democrats say they won’t wait for change, however.
“Every incumbent and challenger ran on a theme of change, and we’ve had the same leadership for 16 years,” Mr. Higgins said.
Rep. Seth Moulton, Massachusetts Democrat who is leading the charge for new blood, responded to Mrs. Pelosi’s comments on Twitter Wednesday, saying: “Last week, the American people sent a clear message that we need a new approach and new leaders in Congress. It’s time for us to listen.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said Democrats also ran on defending the 2010 health law, so that should count for a lot.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there would be no Affordable Care Act if it were not for Nancy Pelosi,” he said.
“I support Nancy Pelosi a million percent,” he added. “We need somebody who’s been battle-tested, and she has been.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat in line to become majority leader, said he disagreed with opponents who say they have the votes to sink Mrs. Pelosi.
He also downplayed the importance of the emerging fight.
“Everybody likes to talk about personalities,” he said, “but much more important to the American people are the policies that we pursue.”