Supporters of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi believe she will have the votes needed to become speaker of the House when Democrats assume the majority next year, despite a campaign among a group of party rank-and-file to nominate someone else to the position.
“I’m very confident that she’s going to have the votes that she needs,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a close Pelosi ally who is expected to take over the House Intelligence Committee next year, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “No one is better qualified.”
Pelosi’s supporters have rested much of their case for why the California Democrat should become speaker on her organizational prowess, calling it indispensable at a time when the party is planning to launch investigations of Trump.
“We don’t want to go into this very challenging time … without the best tactician, without the best organizer to keep our caucus together,” Schiff said. “That is going to be a more challenging task than ever before, because we have a more diverse caucus that ever before.”
During her more than 30 years in the House, and about half of that time as the chamber’s top Democrat, Pelosi has built a reputation as a master vote-counter and dealmaker within her party.
But in recent years, she also has become a favorite target of the GOP — to the extent that several Democrats campaigning during this year’s midterm elections sought to distance themselves from her, even pledging to not vote for Pelosi as speaker.
Pelosi has been working to change the minds of those members and shore up the support she has among the incoming class.
Over the weekend, Sharice Davids — who won in a Kansas district that went handily to Trump in 2016 — announced she would back Pelosi and look to shake up the party’s leadership elsewhere.
“I plan to vote for several younger and newer members for leadership roles in the House Democratic Caucus,” Davids said in a statement. “I will also vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House.”
Part of Davids’s rationale was that no Democrat has stepped up to challenge Pelosi for the speaker’s gavel. The only potential candidate whose name was floated around — Ohio’s Marcia L. Fudge — backed down last week, announcing she would support Pelosi, who promised Fudge would be named chairwoman of a subcommittee on elections that would closely examine voting rights.
Naysayers remain, including in the bipartisan Problem Solvers’ Caucus, where nine Democrats have threatened to withhold support from Pelosi if she does not agree to certain rules changes.
With the party’s midterm gains, Pelosi does not have to win every Democratic vote to secure the 218 she will need to become speaker. But her challenge is to shore up the support she needs before Wednesday, when the party votes behind closed doors on whom to nominate as speaker, for a vote that will happen on the floor in January.
Even if she wins, Pelosi will be under pressure to promote a new generation of leaders who are younger and reflect the growing number of women and minorities that now make up the Democratic conference.
Pelosi has acknowledged that there is talent to tap in the new pool of lawmakers. But in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday, Pelosi also said that she continues to run to keep her top spot in the party because it sends a positive message to women.
“I do it because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around,” she said. “That you do not run away from a fight.”