Updated 9:39 p.m. | In a private call with her restive — and shrinking — flock — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed to her fundraising prowess as a reason to keep her post — while some of her top allies blamed President Barack Obama for the party's woes.
Pelosi hopes to continue leading the caucus although many members are privately discussing when there will be a change in senior leadership ranks.
"I know where the money is," the California Democrat said, according to sources on the call. "I know where to get it."
As the party looks ahead to the 2016 presidential election cycle, perhaps Pelosi's best argument in her favor despite Republicans taking the biggest majority in decades is her fundraising ability. In the last 12 years, she has raised more than $400 million, a staggering sum that no other lawmaker can begin to match. Pelosi said the party also needed to take the fight to the GOP, and not sit back and wait for the next redistricting.
"We have to change the environment," she said. "We cannot let the Republicans define the playing field as they have. If people say that we're going to wait until the next redistricting and then we'll come back, that's a Congress that's sworn-in in 2023. I don't know any children that can wait that long for us to do the job for them, any families that can withstand not only these past few years but the eight years projected. We can make the change in the voting environment in the year 2015."
Pelosi articulated her vision for her caucus in the upcoming Congress, name-checking the "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds" and "Jumpstart the Middle Class" economic agendas. She also implied that the party under her leadership would focus on how to preserve the intent of the Voting Rights Act, calling voter protection a "moral responsibility."
Democrats, with a few Republicans, tried in the 113th Congress to rewrite the pre-clearance formula of the VRA , but were ultimately unsuccessful; they won't likely have better luck in the immediate future.
Pelosi also praised outgoing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., whom she credited with "remarkable astuteness" in his leadership during a challenging cycle and "a terrible year." Israel, too, spoke on the conference call, with sources saying he explained the loss of House seats as due to factors beyond Democrats' control, and that incumbents and candidates in tough races competed with aplomb.
Rank-and-file Democrats spoke up as well. A source reported that Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado said that the party needed to boost voter registration, but above all else pinpoint the message that will ultimately motivate people to go to the polls.
"We lost all over because people weren’t motivated to come out to vote," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who also argued that the party had to change the way it talks about how its policies will help the middle class.
But he added that the losses on Tuesday weren't all House Democrats' fault. Maybe, he suggested, Obama was in part to blame.
"The whole zeitgeist for years has been the president, who has the bully pulpit, refusing to attack the Republicans, refusing to differentiate, refusing to defend his own policies," Nadler said, according to one readout of the call.
Democratic Steering and Policy Co-Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, a top Pelosi lieutenant, agreed: "This election again, in my view, was ... focused around President Obama. And it was not decided on a House of Representatives strategy. We had base voters who were disappointed in the President and who did not come out."