Politics

Anti-Pelosi Democrats Claim They Have Numbers to Block Her in Speaker Floor Vote

Organizers gathering signatures for a letter they say will show the strength of their opposition

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is running for speaker. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, one of the leaders of a small Democratic contingent opposing Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker, said Tuesday he is “100 percent confident” the group has enough commitments to block the California Democrat from being elected speaker on the floor.

The anti-Pelosi group has been gathering signatures from new and returning members on a letter that calls for new Democratic leadership. It also notes that the signatories will not back Pelosi during the January floor vote for speaker.

Moulton suggested they already have enough signatures to prevent Pelosi from getting 218 votes but declined to specify exactly how many.  

“The whole point of the letter is to accelerate this process so that it doesn’t peel out on to the floor,” he said. “She’s the one that’s trying to drive this to a floor vote. We want to make it clear before it comes to that.”

Watch: New Members Could Spell Trouble for Pelosi’s Speaker Bid

The goal, according to Moulton and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, is to show Pelosi she won’t win a floor vote.

“The goal is to get to critical mass, and people realize it’s just time to move on,” Schrader said. He also declined to say how many people had signed onto the letter so far.

The plan is to send the letter before the Democratic Caucus holds its leadership elections on Nov. 28. Pelosi only needs a simple majority to win the caucus nomination for speaker, a threshold she is expected to easily meet, especially since no one is currently challenging her. But she’d need a majority of the entire chamber — 218, if everyone is present and voting — to prevail in a floor vote.

Some Democrats have called for raising the threshold for the caucus vote to 218 to align with the broader chamber rules. But Pelosi loyalists have pushed back — 14 of them wrote a letter Monday arguing against the “extraordinary” rule change.

Publicly, Pelosi has shown little concern about the faction organizing against her. Privately, she’s been working the phones trying to lock down enough supporters.

Over the past few days, several incoming Democratic committee chairmen have written letters or made statements in support of Pelosi’s speaker bid, as have numerous leaders of influential outside Democratic groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Leader Pelosi is very confident in her support among members and members-elect,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.  

Still, Pelosi and her supporters haven’t yet appeared to sway enough of the skeptics to either vote for her or not weigh in on the floor vote. (Any members who voted present or didn’t vote at all in the floor vote would lower the threshold she would need to reach.)

Moulton said the anti-Pelosi contingent is committed to actually voting against her, not voting present, and suggested the California Democrat should accept that now before engaging in a messy floor fight.

“Everyone has made a commitment not to vote for her on the floor,” he said. “We’re trying to do the right thing for the party by solving this ahead of time.”

Moulton and Schrader contend the Pelosi opposition is bigger than it appears, based on those who have spoken out publicly. While no one has stepped forward to challenge her, they feel someone will once they show how large that opposition is.

“The point is, once it’s clear that Pelosi doesn’t have the votes, there are other people — we have enormous talent in our caucus — there are other people that will step forward,” Moulton said.

Schrader acknowledged that potential new leaders are afraid to take Pelosi head on at the moment.

“They’re afraid of her, let’s be honest,” he said. “And other people have different agenda items they want to pursue and they’re trying to run for a leadership post and don’t want any of her supporters to think badly of them.”

If Pelosi were to step aside, they argued, it will be a lot easier on her and the caucus.

“I’d hate to have it go to two, three, four, five six ballots in the House of Representatives because someone is not willing to let new people step up,” Schrader said. “And she’s had a good run. It’s time for new leadership.”

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