Sixteen House Democrats have published letter vowing to vote against Nancy Pelosi for House speaker, but no Democratic challenger has stepped forward to challenge her for the job — a crucial step for opponents to block her return as the most powerful Democrat in Washington.
Of the letter’s 16 writers, 14 are men and just two are women. One of the writers is a congressional candidate whose race has not yet been called.
While the letter’s writers include two prominent critics of Ms Pelosi — Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Tim Ryan of Ohio — others who have publicly criticised the House minority leader did not sign it. That includes Marcia Fudge, the Ohio congresswoman who said she is considering a run against for Ms Pelosi for the speakership.
In their letter, the Democrats thanked Ms Pelosi for “her years of service” but said the party needed to “change the status quo”. They said they would not vote to support Ms Pelosi in a Democratic caucus vote later this month or in an all-House floor vote in January.
Ms Pelosi can only afford to lose 15 votes to clinch a majority on the House floor in January. President Donald Trump has suggested, however, that enough Republican lawmakers would be willing to back her. A member who voted “present” instead of for or against Ms Pelosi, would not be counted against her, potentially giving more wriggle room for new members who had previously promised to oppose her.
The 78-year old Ms Pelosi has long been attacked by Republicans as an out-of-touch California liberal and frequently criticised by members of her own party for hanging on to the leadership for too long. But she says she is “100 per cent” sure she has enough votes to return to the post she occupied between 2007 and 2011, when the party last held the House.
The Democrats are due to vote on the speakership on November 28.
On Sunday, Ms Pelosi’s office released a list detailing the names of 30 different unions and advocacy groups that support her candidacy. Hollywood celebrities, ranging from Barbra Streisand to Rob Reiner, also declared their backing.
Only Ms Fudge has said she is considering challenging Ms Pelosi. However, Ms Pelosi has already attempted to defuse Ms Fudge’s opposition to her candidacy, meeting the congresswoman privately on Friday.
After the meeting, Ms Fudge told reporters she had still not made up her mind about whether to run but that she and Ms Pelosi had discussed the question of succession and also how to make the Democratic caucus feel more inclusive.
“I think the biggest issue we discussed was the feeling in the caucus of people who are feeling left out and left behind,” Ms Fudge said. She said that if Ms Pelosi pledged to serve just one more term, she would “absolutely” support her bid for speaker.
Ms Fudge, a member of the Congressional black caucus, is one of the Democratic lawmakers who have signed a letter saying they will not support Ms Pelosi as speaker. However, Mrs Pelosi may not require their votes.
Since polls closed on Tuesday, the Democrats’ lead in the House has steadily expanded, particularly in southern California where Democrats have won four Republican seats, meaning the party has gained at least 37 seats in the midterms — 14 more than they needed to gain the House.
The result is likely to boost Ms Pelosi’s authority, as have some of the resounding victories for Democratic women in this month’s elections.
Ms Pelosi also received an unexpected boost from President Donald Trump, who tweeted at the weekend that he would round up “as many” GOP votes as Ms Pelosi wants to push her over the line. “She deserves this victory, she has earned it — but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away. She will win,” he said.
A number of Democrats remain opposed to a new Pelosi speakership, among them Conor Lamb, a self-styled moderate who won a former Republican Congressional seat in Pennsylvania
Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer and representative-elect from Virginia, also insisted on Sunday that she would not vote for Ms Pelosi.
“I think that if we are going to turn the page and bring civility back to the political discussion . . . we need to change the people who are directing that conversation,” she told ABC News.
However, a fellow representative-elect, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, told CNN she was “fundamentally” leaning towards voting for Ms Pelosi.
“I have enormous respect for Leader Pelosi . . . I wouldn't be standing here . . . unless people like her did the work that they have done,” Ms Houlahan said.
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