House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is barreling toward a strong showing in a key test of strength as Democrats vote for the next Congress’ leadership on Wednesday.
Pelosi, the only declared Democratic candidate for speaker, is looking to quell a rebellion among less than two dozen Democratic detractors seeking to keep her from retaking the gavel after eight years in the minority.
Pelosi and her lieutenants have been twisting arms behind the scenes, looking to pick off enough members to make their threat moot. She’s likely to easily win the majority support to be the Democrats’ pick for speaker in Wednesday’s vote, but the true test will come Jan. 3 when she’ll need a majority of all members on the House floor.
How many Democrats defect in a Wednesday vote could signal whether her opponents still have a real shot at blocking her. But Pelosi’s supporters are hoping that enough of the motley crew of centrists, iconoclasts and freshmen from tough districts scared of supporting Pelosi after they called for new leadership on the campaign trail will back her on the floor even if they vote against her on Wednesday.
“They have every right at the House Democratic caucus to make their views known and to fight for their position. At the end of the day I do hope that the members of the House Democratic caucus respect the will of the House Democratic caucus,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), a Pelosi ally, told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
That rump group of dissenters, led by Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), don’t have a clear plan for an alternative — but they and 14 others are on a letter opposing her, with four others who haven’t signed the letter but plan to vote against her on the floor.
Those 20 members are slightly more than the 17 Pelosi can afford to lose on the House floor, assuming T.J. Cox’s lead over Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) holds in the final House race left uncalled in the country.
Some members were adamant they’d stick together in opposition — Rep.-elect Max Rose (D-NY), who’s on the letter, said he’s “very consistent” about his planned vote. But it’s unclear whether enough of them can hold together, especially as Moulton moved earlier in the week to try to open the door for a compromise with Pelosi, a decision he reportedly didn’t clear with the rest of the group.
A number of freshmen released a letter of their own on Tuesday pledging to support Pelosi — a list that includes some from tough districts, like Reps.-elect Harley Rouda (D-CA), Katie Hill (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA) and Cindy Axne (D-IA).
A separate letter from freshmen to House Democratic leaders demand plum committee assignments and other acknowledgments of the class’ large size within the caucus, but doesn’t threaten to oppose Pelosi if the demands aren’t met. Signees include both Pelosi supporters and opponents, including Rep.-elect Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who led the effort.
The Pelosi drama is the marquee matchup, and won’t be completely resolved Wednesday, even as Democrats choose their other leadership. But Pelosi’s allies hope that there won’t be much drama left after she makes a show of force on Wednesday.
“Pelosi will be our leader. The leadership will be the team that brought us here. When you go to the dance, you go home with the person that you brought to the dance,” Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), a close Pelosi ally, told TPM Tuesday afternoon. “I can assure you you will have things to do between now and January. This will not be one of them.”