While allies of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed hard this week to put her on the way to become the next Speaker of the House, a small group of Democratic holdouts is threatening to block her from getting to 218 votes on the floor in January, leaving Democrats uncertain about their leadership.
“I’m concerned about the situation,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), as he left a closed door meeting of House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
“I can’t say that I’m optimistic,” Connolly told reporters, noting that those opposed to Pelosi as the next Speaker did not seem to be backing down.
“I’m always true to my word,” said Rep.-Elect Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who made clear repeatedly during his campaign for Congress that he would not vote for Pelosi as Speaker.
“Sometimes it’s good to have a fresh new face, and to have change and go forward with some new ideas, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Van Drew told reporters.
Meanwhile, Pelosi’s office continued on Thursday to churn out public endorsements from both established Democrats and those who have just been elected.
“I truly believe that Rep. Pelosi has demonstrated the proven, tested leadership we need to confront the issues before our nation,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). “We cannot afford to come up short.”
As for recently elected lawmakers, two new Democrats from California said they would stick with their home state colleague, arguing Pelosi would deliver ‘leadership that is bold, pragmatic, and capable of swift results.’
“This is why we support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker,” wrote Katie Hill and Mike Levin, who won seats in southern California.
But the math to 218 votes seemed somewhat fraught for Pelosi, as if Democrats end up with around 235-240 votes in the House, a relatively small slice of the party could block Pelosi’s ascension, much as the Freedom Caucus threatened to do for several years in the House with the GOP.
“We had the biggest victory since 1974,” Pelosi said. “All of us are committed to a better future for America’s working families.”
Whether that story line includes Pelosi as Speaker again – that won’t be determined until the week after Thanksgiving.