There have been rumblings of a revolt against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from within her own caucus for some time and reports indicate that the top Democratic leader is scrambling to ensure that an uprising doesn’t upset her bid to retain the speaker’s gavel for another two years.
In light of the thin majority that House Democrats will hold next term, Pelosi and her top allies are reportedly desperate to ensure that every elected Democrat shows up in-person for the speaker vote on Jan. 3, and that no one vote for any other named candidate, according to Politico.
Every vote she can get
At the start of the current term in 2019, Pelosi suffered the defection of 15 Democrats who voted against her bid to be the speaker, a stinging rebuke that she weathered due to a sufficiently large Democratic majority in the House.
This time around, with a majority that has shrunk to only nine or ten seats, Pelosi won’t have the luxury of abiding similar “protest” votes against her from more than a couple members of her caucus, making it all the more pressing that she and her allies lean heavily on rank-and-file members to make certain that they fall in line.
Politico noted that while it was deemed unlikely that she is truly at risk of losing the speaker’s gavel, it could nonetheless prove extremely close in the margins with minimal room for error or oversight.
As such, the outlet reported that Pelosi has called in her party’s big hitters to wage an aggressive lobbying campaign on the rank-and-file members, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) as well as big Democratic donors, former Obama-era officials, and even labor leaders in certain states to target specific members.
The rules will be different
One of the biggest reasons why the vote for speaker has taken on great importance for Pelosi, aside from her own ambition to retain power, is that only the votes of House members in attendance on Jan. 3, the first day of the new session, will be counted.
While House Democrats have had the luxury of missing votes and voting by proxy during this current term because of a rule change brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, that rule change goes away at the start of the new term.
Pelosi also needs all of her own caucus members to refrain from voting for anyone besides her, as the top named candidate receiving the most votes — regardless of party or even membership — will be the next speaker. Democrats who are reluctant to support her may have an “out,” however, in that members could vote “present,” which would allow Pelosi to retain the speakership without the full express support of every member of her caucus.
The insistence of Pelosi and her allies that all Democratic members show up to vote in-person for her speaker bid didn’t sit well with her top counterpart, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
He called out Pelosi’s hypocrisy and inconsistency regarding members voting in-person, given the remote and skipped votes that were permitted this year due to the pandemic.
“Pelosi is fine with House Democrats skipping work if the votes are about legislation, but in January she will demand every Democrat show up — in person — to vote for her for Speaker,” McCarthy said, according to Fox News. “Her message is clear: her power is more important than anything else.”