All leaders are “transitional,” Nancy Pelosi once said — but some are less transitional than others. Rather than compromise with restive members of her caucus about the stranglehold she has on leadership, Pelosi refused to even discuss a succession plan yesterday as part of her bid to regain the Speaker’s gavel. Politico reports that Pelosi managed to get a strong endorsement for her bid anyway:
Moulton, Rice and Ryan opened up the discussion with the California Democrat hoping to find out what exactly Pelosi meant when she said in October that she’d serve as a “transitional” leader — particularly after Pelosi later said all leaders are transitional in some way. But Pelosi refused to even acknowledge the idea since she’d make herself a lame duck speaker, crippling herself just as she’s going up against Democrats’ biggest foe: President Donald Trump.
“They want her to lame duck herself,” complained one Pelosi ally. “It’s not just about her. They want her to put a timeline on herself. That erodes the authority of the entire Democratic majority.” …
But according to sources familiar with what happened, Rice, Moulton and Ryan expressed concerns about incoming Democratic freshmen who vowed to vote against Pelosi and are being pressured to break those campaign promises. The incoming class needs to back a speaker that could help them politically and that “they can be proud of,” they argued. Freshmen could be punished for backing her in 2020, they continued.
Pelosi, however, dismissed their argument entirely, vowing to help these incoming freshmen by raising them money to fend off any such attacks. In fact, the entire thrust of their argument was insulting to Pelosi, her allies said — particularly because Pelosi believes Democrats’ 40-seat Election-Day romp proved that GOP attacks against her are no longer effective.
Even her opposition is less effective. Pelosi survived a leadership challenge in the caucus after the 2016 election, but lost 63 votes to Tim Ryan. This time around, her opposition could only muster half of that dissident vote:
Rep. Nancy Pelosi took a major step toward a historic second turn as House speaker on Wednesday, winning a strong majority in a Democratic nominating vote after striking a deal with a group of moderate holdouts and further isolating her ragtag opposition.
But Pelosi (D-Calif.) still has to persuade about half of the 32 Democrats who opposed her nomination to support her in a planned Jan. 3 floor vote in which she must win a majority of the entire House, not just Democrats. A brief meeting with leaders of the opposition Wednesday ended in acrimony. …
She remained at loggerheads, however, with a more intransigent group that has taken aim at the party leadership, calling for a shake-up of a top echelon inhabited by three lawmakers in their late 70s. Just before the vote was called, Pelosi met in her Capitol Hill office with three leaders of the group in a first round of negotiations but made no headway.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), one of the opposition leaders, called the talk “not terribly productive” and said the 203-to-32 vote, plus three blank ballots and one absentee, demonstrated that Pelosi does not have the absolute majority — 218 if all 435 members vote for an individual — that she will need in January.
They’re still holding out for a transition plan, but it doesn’t look like they’ll get it. It might be easier to vote “no” if they had someone to vote for. As of yesterday, though, no one wants to be the person to come at the queen, presumably for fear of missing. Marcia Fudge bailed early, and not even the dissident leaders have put themselves forward as an option. For that matter, the AP reminds us today, no one has challenged Steny Hoyer or James Clyburn either, both of whom ran unopposed in the caucus election along with Pelosi. As I’ve said all along, you can’t beat something with nothing.
If all 32 or even most of them hold firm on their pledges to vote “no,” Pelosi can’t win. If, however, they abstain, they can claim that they didn’t vote for her while lowering the number for the majority enough to make her Speaker. That may be the lower-gastric-fortitude option, but unless and until another credible contender for the crown comes along, bet on that being the outcome.