Pelosi beats back effort by Perlmutter, others to thwart her run for speaker — for now
Author: Washington Examiner - September 27, 2018 - Updated: October 15, 2018
By Laura Barrón-López, Washington Examiner
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi scored a small win in her bid to become speaker again when a petition meant to complicate her rise to the top spot was shelved Wednesday by the chamber’s Democratic Caucus.
The motion — launched by a handful of House Democrats that included Colorado’s Ed Perlmutter — sought a rule change that would make it harder for Pelosi, or anyone running for speaker, to secure the necessary votes in the caucus.
The measure wasn’t brought up for discussion until the final 10 minutes of House Democrats’ caucus meeting Wednesday. But in those 10 minutes, a fight broke out amongst members that included yelling and accusations of stupidity.
The family feud ended with the petition, which would require whoever runs for speaker to secure 218 votes in the party’s private caucus vote, being withdrawn.
Proponents of the move are expected to bring it up again after the November election, but Wednesday’s meeting left vocal Pelosi defectors like Rep. Kathleen Rice fuming.
“Now it’s just what’s going to happen after election day,” said Rice, who helped organize the effort. “It will be one of the first things we’ll vote on obviously once the new members are here.”
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., another known Pelosi detractor said there was “great interest” in the proposal among members.
“It was obvious that this was the beginning of that debate not the end of it,” said HIggins.
When Perlmutter, D-Arvada, brought the measure before members Wednesday, he had Congressional Research Service reports on hand, arguing that the way Democrats vote for their would-be speaker in caucus contradicts House rules for the floor vote.
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla. charged that such a change could make Democrats beholden to a small minority even if a majority were to vote for Pelosi. That would create a Democratic Freedom Caucus, a reference to the influential far-right House Freedom Caucus, Frankel argued according to multiple members in the room.
Pelosi called for members to vote on the measure right away, saying it was a clear shot at her, crafted to prevent her from becoming speaker.
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, stood up in defense of Pelosi, scolding House Democrats for believing the GOP attacks that the California Democrat is toxic, sources said.
Frankel confirmed that she asked whether the rule change would effectively give a small number of members outsized power over the speaker vote.
“Here’s what I think: I believe in democracy,” said Frankel. “I have no problem with people dissenting or maybe objecting to a particular leader. It seems to me the way we’re going to get [democracy] without giving an unfair amount of power to one person or a minority, is we should have majority rule.”
Rep. Gerry Connelly, D-Va., admitted the Wednesday meeting erupted but said it’s to be expected because Democrats are eagerly awaiting big wins in November.
The authors of the proposal, Connelly said, denied it was an attack on Pelosi, but members worried such a rule change would give “veto power” to a very small amount of people.
‘If you win back the majority in the House you got the luxury of fighting about leadership until the cows come home,” said Connelly. “We’re going to have vigorous debate and it’s one we haven’t had for a long time and so there’s some pent up energy here.”
Until then, Connelly said, the majority of Democrats are focused on winning back the House.
“I wrote 70 checks yesterday to challengers all around the country,” he said.
Other Colorado lawmakers have also weighed in on Pelosi’s future as the Democrats’ leader in the House.