Politics

Nancy Pelosi Claims She Would be Speaker if Contest Held Today

‘Oh, please,’ California Democrat says about any need for GOP support

The fate of Nancy Pelosi’s bid to be the next speaker rests in large part on the big freshman class, including about 60 new Democrats. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:43 p.m. | Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi claims if the vote for speaker were held today, she would have the support to be elected on the floor, despite the claims of opponents they have the numbers to block her. 

“Yes,” the California Democrat answered simply when asked that question during her weekly press conference Thursday. 

Pelosi didn’t address the speaker’s race during her opening remarks, instead touting Democrats’ midterm wins and reiterating their plans for the next Congress, as well as highlighting priorities for the remaining weeks of this one. 

Once the questioning began and Pelosi was asked about the continued calls for new leadership and the rebellion forming against her speaker bid, she noted she didn’t want to spend much time on the topic.

Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

“Does anyone else have a question in this regard?” she said. “Because I’m only going to answer it once. Just pop ’em out, pop ’em out.”

Reporters did as she requested, asking about Democrats who are organizing against her who reportedly have gathered at least 17 signatures on a still unreleased letter stating their plans to vote against her on the floor and if she thinks there are other capable members who could lead.

Pelosi provided short answers as the questions were shouted out, then elaborated on her thoughts once she’d gathered a handful of questions. 

“I have overwhelming support in my caucus to be speaker of the House,” she said.

Pelosi said she intends to win the speakership with Democratic votes and would not accept help from help from Republicans.

“Oh please, no,” she said. “Never. Never. Never.”

Regarding potential rivals for the speakership, Pelosi said there are plenty of qualified people within the caucus that could serve but noted, “I happen to believe at this point I’m the best person for that.”

After taking what she felt was a fair array of questions on the speaker topic, Pelosi noted there were other pressing issues on her mind: the farm bill, anti-sexual harassment legislation, the remaining fiscal 2019 appropriations bills, among others. 

"I have a day job here that is different from just what is happening on the political side," she said. "We’re just very excited about the size of our victory.”

On that topic she had noted in her opening that there are close to 60 new Democrats, roughly 40 who were on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue list.

“Winning 23 seats in a voter suppressed, gerrymandered map is a wave,” she said, bragging about the gains beyond that.

Despite Pelosi's hopes of changing the topic, the questions about the speaker's race did not not stop. 

Asked about a potential challenge from Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge —the only person so far who has suggested they might enter the speaker’s race — Pelosi welcomed her and anyone else who wants to run to do so.

“Say it to everybody: ‘Come on in. The water’s warm,’” she said.

Pelosi initially ignored the topic of the letter her opponents have been preparing but then referenced it later in response to a question about the gender dynamic in the speaker’s race.

“Of the 17, it’s mostly like, 14 men who are on that letter,” she said. 

In response to that comment, Pelosi was asked if she thought sexism was at play.

“You know I have never gone to that place. ... If in fact there is any misogyny involved in it, it’s their problem, not mine,” she said.

Pelosi acknowledging the 17 opponents on the letter undercut her own argument that she has the would have the votes to be elected speaker if the election were today.

Based on the races that have been called today, Democrats have 229 seats, only 11 more than the 218 she’d need to be elected speaker if everyone participated in the floor vote and did not vote “present.”

The trajectory of the uncalled races doesn’t suggest she’ll have ultimately have a buffer of 17 or more votes, so if she knows those opponents exist she would need to convince some members not to vote or vote “present” to lower the majority threshold she’d need to reach.

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