A small group of House Democrats are requesting that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) delay leadership elections planned for next week to allow members time to discuss what led Democrats to significantly underperform in last week’s election.
At least 20 rank-and-file members, including Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.) and Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), signed the letter over the weekend in hopes of stalling the elections, which are scheduled for Thursday, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. The letter comes as some Democrats are privately complaining that the party has struggled to regain power since the GOP gained control in 2010.
“It is vital that our Caucus take the time to listen to the American people and learn the lessons of this difficult election in order to put our Caucus in the best position to fight the potentially dangerous agenda of President-elect Donald Trump and to have a realistic chance of taking back the House in 2018,” the letter reads.
The letter was originally promoted by Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) but he decided to remove his name from the effort amid speculation that he might challenge Pelosi in the upcoming race for House Democratic leader, according to a Ryan spokesman. Ryan has not made any final decisions about his plans and he continues to support delaying the elections, the aide said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday weighed in on Democrats’ internal tumult, blaming Pelosi for the party’s election slump.
“I truly believe as long as she’s leader we keep the majority,” McCarthy told reporters.
Pelosi’s allies have been working in recent days to defend her tenure as House Democratic leader amid frustration that Democrats won fewer seats than expected in Tuesday’s election. On Friday, Rep Doris Matsui (Calif.) circulated a separate letter to members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus celebrating Pelosi’s leadership, according to a copy obtained by The Post. As of Friday afternoon 40 of the 54 women had signed the letter urging Pelosi to remain as leader, aides said.
“We believe that now, more than ever, our Caucus and our country need your strategic, battle-tested leadership to guide us through the years ahead,” the letter read. “As we work to guard our accomplishments for hard-working families and preserve an inclusive and forward-looking America, we will be stronger with you as Democratic Leader. You have our support, and we ask you to continue as the Leader for our party and our nation.”
The effort to stall party elections came after leaders informed members last week that the elections would occur Thursday, giving members three days to confer after returning to Washington on Monday.
Members are now urging Pelosi and other leaders allow more time to discuss the political climate before the intraparty selection process occurs. Democrats are scheduled to hold postelection meetings early this week, including a Monday night call with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. That meeting will be followed by a regular weekly meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday.
The weekend letter requests that leaders allow members to discuss those conversations before moving ahead with party elections.
“Only by taking the time to find the hard truths can we formulate a comprehensive path forward, which could include the composition of our caucus leadership and the roles and responsibilities of each leadership position,” the letter reads. “This type of family conversation will take time, but it is absolutely necessary to put us in the best position to take back control of the House.”
Rank-and-file Democrats have been mulling changes to party-wide messaging and leadership in the days since the election, according to many aides. A growing number of young and recently elected House Democrats to take time to discuss changes to party rules, including the possibility of term limits for committee leaders. Progressive Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is a leading contender to take the reins of the Democratic National Committee.
House Democrats attempted a similar maneuver in 2010 after they party lost 63 House seats. An effort to stall leadership elections ultimately failed on a secret ballot with a vote of 129 to 68.