Pelosi Moves Closer to Speaker’s Gavel After Higgins’ Abrupt Reversal

N.Y. Democrat is promised action on infrastructure, Medicare legislation

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., announced Wednesday he will support Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s bid to become speaker in January after the two struck a deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In an abrupt reversal after signing on to a letter Monday opposing Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker, New York Rep. Brian Higgins announced he will support her after striking a deal with the California Democrat.

Higgins’ decision is a major blow to a group of House Democrats who want Pelosi to drop her pursuit of the speaker’s gavel so a new generation can emerge just as the party is returning to partial power in Washington. On Monday, Higgins was among 16 Democrats who signed a letter addressed to their colleagues, saying that the midterms showed voters “want to see real change in Washington” and that Democratic candidates “promised to change the status quo.”

But maintaining that bravado might be difficult for some if Pelosi promises action on their top priorities. And that’s exactly what Higgins told The Buffalo News she promised him in a private conversation.

Pelosi, who often describes herself as a “master legislator” and vote-counter, assured Higgins she would move a sweeping infrastructure bill early next year and give him a lead position when the caucus attempts to craft and pass legislation that would allow anyone over 50 to sign up for Medicare.

“For years, Congressman Higgins has been an extraordinary leader on the issue of achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” Pelosi said in a statement to the Buffalo newspaper. “His Medicare buy-in proposal is an central to this debate, as we work to build on the Affordable Care Act."

Securing Higgins support means the former speaker is one vote closer to returning to the top House position, which would let her set the chamber’s agenda.

Counting only those races that have been called, there will be 233 Democrats next year, meaning Pelosi can only lose 15 of them in a floor vote for speaker and get to 218. That’s the number she’ll need to be elected speaker unless some members don’t vote or vote “present,” thus lowering the majority threshold.

Pelosi got another boost Tuesday when Ohio Rep. Marcia L. Fudge said she would not oppose her for the gavel after also securing some concessions from the longtime Democratic leader.

“My consideration was due in large part to the lack of sustained efforts that ensure diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the House,” Fudge said in a statement, before noting that Pelosi has assured her that black women will have a seat at the decision-making table.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.Watch: Congress Talks Turkey? More Like Pizza, Reindeer Sausage and Hot Dogs on the Chamber Floors This Year

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