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Moderates Unsure About Pelosi Keeping the Gavel

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Moderate Democrats believe they will have a stronger hand in negotiations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi if the party maintains the majority in the House next year, but it is unclear whether anyone would challenge her for the gavel.

In a statement Friday, Hoyer said: “Democrats will keep the House in November, Speaker Pelosi will be elected Speaker, and I will continue to serve as Majority Leader.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) tried to recruit Minnick to help him draft Hoyer to run for Speaker if Democrats maintained the majority by a few seats. At the time, Minnick declined to discuss the matter, but he also refused to commit to voting for Pelosi if Democrats keep control.

“I want to see who’s in the majority and who the candidates are before I comment on the leadership,” he said in a recent interview. “I don’t know who’s going to run, and I don’t know which party is going to be in control. So until after the election that gets clarified, I don’t want to comment on who I am going to vote for.”

For his part, Marshall — who bucks his party on major legislation — said he would prefer more moderate leadership.

“Who I vote for will depend on who is running and best reflects and advances the interests of my district,” he said. “It’s truly unfortunate that Speaker Pelosi has become a lightning rod, which makes it difficult for Democrats.”

Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, a Blue Dog Coalition founder and Hoyer ally, said he would also prefer a more centrist leader next Congress.

“If I were there, I first off would want to see if the Speaker intends to change the direction she has led the caucus,” the Texas Democrat said. “Obviously, if not, then you take it the rest of the way.”

Taylor, who nominated the late Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) instead of Pelosi to lead the Democrats, said he “would prefer to see Ike Skelton as Speaker.” But Taylor said he had not spoken to the Missouri Democrat about his preference. Skelton is facing a tough re-election fight this year.

The disaffection among some Democrats for Pelosi may wane after the elections. But with six weeks until Election Day, some vulnerable Democrats would rather have some space from leadership.

Rep. Zack Space, a sophomore who is running for re-election in Ohio, said it would be premature to commit to voting for the next Speaker.

“It’s inappropriate to commit because we don’t know who’s going to be running, whether she’s going to be running, whether she’s going to have opposition,” he said.

Rep. Chet Edwards (Texas), whom Pelosi touted as a potential vice presidential nominee just two years ago, has also distanced himself from the Speaker. The Blue Dog Democrat — who is in a tough bid to win an 11th term and is running ads touting his differences with Pelosi — recently told the Washington Post he had not made up his mind whether he would support the California Democrat in the 112th Congress.

Not all moderates are turning away. Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), who secured the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee with the support of Pelosi, said he would support her. Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas) also said he was definitely committed to letting Pelosi keep the gavel.

Not a single Democrat voted against Pelosi for Speaker in 2009 or 2007.

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