Allies of Nancy Pelosi are trying to stop a Democratic rebellion from taking place that could imperil her return to the speakership, after an election where a number of newly-elected House Democrats vowed during the campaign to support someone other than the California Democrat for speaker.
Pelosi faces 14 representatives-elect who have said they would oppose her as speaker, in addition to eight incumbent Democrats who have reservations about her returning to claim the gavel.
In a Monday letter to fellow Democrats, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings pressured Democrats to vote for Pelosi, saying, “I understand that some of our newly-elected members said during their campaigns they would oppose Leader Pelosi.”
Cummings said Democrats must unify behind the party’s choice.
“After we, as Democrats, make our selection, our new members should not be pressured into voting against our party’s nominee on the House floor in January — when the choice will be between the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate,” Cummings wrote. “That will only play into the hands of House Republicans and President Trump.”
Democrats plan to meet behind closed doors to select their nominee for speaker later this month. But the official election for speaker takes place in January, when the entire House of Representatives votes.
To get the gavel, Pelosi will first need to pick up a majority of the Democratic caucus in internal leadership elections, then go on to win an absolute majority of the House.
Pelosi doesn’t appear to have the votes to be elected speaker at this time, if those Democrats who said they wouldn’t support her voted for someone else. If Democrats end up with 233 seats in the House, that means Pelosi may only have 211 votes -- short of the 218 she will need to be elected speaker.
After arriving in Washington on Tuesday, several Democrats suggested it will hard for them to support Pelosi for speaker.
Rep.-elect Kendra Horn, D-Okla., who unexpectedly defeated GOP Rep. Steve Russell in a seat which had been Republican for years, told Fox News she will vote for “what’s best for Oklahoma” and said supporting Pelosi would be “challenging” in her state.
Reps.-elect Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Joe Neguse, D-Colo., indicated they are undecided as to who to support.
But for Pelosi to be derailed, opponents need a viable Democratic alternative candidate, and so far that hasn’t happened -- although one still has time to emerge.
For her part, Pelosi isn’t taking any chances. Politico reported that Pelosi and her allies are arguing it’s important for a woman to be elected speaker.
“I think it would look ridiculous if we win back the House … we have a pink wave with women who have brought back the House, then you’re going to not elect the leader who led the way? No,” Florida Rep. Lois Frankel told Politico. “That would be wrong.”
Pelosi said last week she was confident that she would be speaker again.
“I don’t think anyone deserves anything. It’s not about what you have done, it’s what you can do. What you’ve done in the past speaks to your credentials, but it’s about what you can do, and I think I’m the best person to go forward, to unify, to negotiate,” she said.
“I’m a good negotiator, as anyone can see in terms of how we’ve won every negotiation so far,” she added.
Republicans, certainly, see a Pelosi speakership as beneficial to them. President Trump last week said that Republicans would help Pelosi if she didn’t have enough support from Democrats. It is unclear whether the president was being sincere.
“If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!” he tweeted.
Pelosi was speaker between 2007-11, but in 2016 she fended off a leadership challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. During a recent appearance on Fox News’ “Cavuto,” Ryan said, “I don’t think this is a done deal yet” in terms of Pelosi becoming speaker again. Ryan also says he “hopes somebody does” challenge Pelosi.
“We’re getting a lot of phone calls and a lot of us are talking, I think it’s important,” he said. “As I said, I don’t have any intention of doing this at this point.”
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Adam Shaw and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.