Full Court Press: Nancy Pelosi Launches Complete Campaign to Lock in House Speakership While Divisions Rankle Democrats

Nancy Pelosi gavel (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
Susan Walsh / Associated Press

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is engaged in a full-on campaign for the House Speakership and is taking nothing for granted. Her move comes as more Democrats come out against her nascent bid to regain the Speaker’s gavel she lost when Republicans took the majority in the 2010 midterm elections.

While Democrats retook the House majority in the 2018 midterms, a new Democrat majority that will be seated in January 2019, Pelosi’s bid for another term as Speaker is anything but certain. While she remains the favorite, and has no intra-Democrat Party challenger, Pelosi’s struggle to get to 218 votes–the majority necessary to win the Speakership on the floor of the House of Representatives–could not be clearer.

On Monday, two senior Democrats–Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR)–made clear in comments to Politico that they would not be supporting Pelosi. Now, late Tuesday in comments to CNN, two more Democrats–Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Filemon Vela (D-TX)–joined the public opposition to Pelosi’s speakership candidacy with warnings that she will not have the votes necessary to retake the gavel.

“I am 100% confident we can forge new leadership,” Vela said, with Moulton adding that he believes anti-Pelosi Democrats’ chances are also at “100%.”

“We are trying to do the right thing for the party by solving this ahead of time,” Moulton said.

Pelosi, meanwhile, fired back at Moulton on Wednesday, dismissing his certainty that she would fail with certainty she would succeed.

“I’m a busy person, but I will be the speaker of the House no matter what he said,” Pelosi said in response to Moulton on Wednesday.

Pelosi will almost certainly win the nomination of the Democrat conference later in November, as she only needs a majority of the majority to vote for her to be the Democrats’ nominee for Speaker in the early January House floor election. But it is on the House floor where she may have trouble locking down the Speakership, as any candidate running must win a majority of those members present and voting for a person to win the Speakership–voting present is a throwaway vote because it does not count toward the total and lowers the number that Pelosi would need to win. In other words, assuming all 435 voting members of the House vote for a person, Pelosi would need 218 votes to retake the Speaker’s gavel. And she has little margin for error.

As Breitbart News reported earlier this week, Pelosi’s margin for error is less than 20 votes but may be as little as a dozen:

When all is said and done from last Tuesday’s midterms–there are still nine outstanding House races–Democrats could have a majority as high as 236 seats but definitely will have at least 227. That final number is going to be critical for Democrats’ hopes of securing Pelosi as speaker, as every number extra that Democrats add to the final total is an extra vote Pelosi can afford to lose.

If Republicans sweep those nine remaining races, a very unlikely outcome, and Democrats enter the new Congress with 227 votes, Pelosi can only afford to lose nine Democrats on the floor. Democrats, however, are very likely to pick up a number of the nine outstanding seats. They currently lead Republicans in four of them:  California’s 10th District, New Jersey’s 3rd District, New York’s 22nd, and Utah’s 4th District. Republicans lead Democrats in the other five: California’s 39th and 45th Districts, and Georgia’s 7th, as well as Maine’s 2nd, and Texas’s 23rd Districts.

If these races are finalized the way they stand now, Democrats will have 231 votes in the House–which means Pelosi can afford to lose 13 Democrats in her bid for the speakership–but if they all go to the Democrats in the end, Democrats would have 236 votes, and Pelosi would be able to afford to lose 18 votes from Democrats in the speaker’s race.

In other words, depending on how these final races shake out, Pelosi’s margin for error could be anywhere from nine to eighteen votes; the higher the number, the harder it is for the intra-conference rebels to successfully block her.

The way a Speakership election works is that at the beginning of a Congress, candidates are introduced and then members–in alphabetical order–are called to vote. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast for a person, then the business of Congress is held up until such time as a Speaker can be elected on future ballots. This is precisely the strategy that anti-Pelosi Democrat are employing: While they do not have a challenger ready, and do not intend to, what they aim to do is tank Pelosi’s chances on the first ballot with the presumption that alternative candidates with fresher visions for leadership would emerge on future ballots.

“The Pelosi opponents don’t have anyone ready to challenge her, but are trying to garner enough signatures of lawmakers promising to vote against her on the floor to show that she cannot be elected,” Politico’s Bade wrote on Wednesday.

As such, and with a growing rebellion against her among House Democrats old and new–not only have these four veteran members joined the anti-Pelosi resistance but newly elected incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was spotted at a protest at Pelosi’s office this week–Pelosi is leaving nothing to chance in her ruthless campaign for the speakership.

According to another Politico report late on Tuesday, Pelosi has been amping her campaign for the Speakership.

“Pelosi secretly showed up at the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ freshman orientation session on Monday to try to ingratiate herself with about 20 members-elect in attendance,” Politico’s Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan wrote. “There, Pelosi played up her role creating the caucus as an original founding member of the group and touted her background working as a progressive community organizer in California. On Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi held a reception for all Democrats at Osteria Morini, an Italian restaurant by the D.C. waterfront. On Wednesday, the members-elect will be introduced to their colleagues at a Democratic Caucus meeting, a lengthy process that will put them onstage with Pelosi. The California Democrat will follow that up with an appearance at the Congressional Black Caucus, a powerful faction inside the Democratic Caucus. Then, Pelosi will host a private dinner for members-elect and their spouses Wednesday evening in Statuary Hall, right off the House floor.”

But that’s not all: Pelosi, according to Bresnahan and Bade, has enlisted several top Democrat Party luminaries and power players to pressure members and members-elect on her behalf. Failed Democrat presidential candidates former Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), also the former Secretary of State, as well as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are reportedly calling Democrats in the incoming House majority to lobby them to vote for Pelosi for Speaker.

The Politico piece lists out four other Democrats who are coming into the new Congress as opposed to Pelosi’s Speakership bid as well, Reps.-elect Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Jason Crow (D-CO), and Max Rose (D-NY). That puts the total anti-Pelosi floor votes at at least eight, meaning she is walking a very fine line as her detractors nearly have what they need to stop her already.

“I am not voting for her — no if, ands or buts, under any circumstances,” Rose said on Fox News, per Politico.



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