Nancy Pelosi says she has the votes to become the next House speaker, but a potential challenger has emerged

The anti-Pelosi faction received a potential lift Thursday when a veteran member of the Congressional Black Caucus said she would consider challenging Pelosi, helping rebut one of the central criticisms of this rump caucus of agitators: that they had no plan other than toppling Pelosi.

The CBC, which represents about 20 percent of the Democratic caucus, would likely be divided if Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) follows through with the challenge.

.. Outside advisers to Pelosi believe that the anti-Pelosi wing needs more than just the bare minimum of votes to prevent her from securing 218 votes, with the far greater threat coming from the freshman class that is dominated by female political stars. If many of them announced opposition to Pelosi, it could be a politically mortal wound.

.. in this era of decentralized political forces, more rank-and-file feel free to oppose their party’s leader. These Democratic dissidents are following the footsteps of Republicans who chased one Republican speaker, John A. Boehner, out of office and made life difficult for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

.. Pelosi has deputized the incoming chairman of the Rules Committee, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), to try to produce a new rules package designed to open up the House so that more junior lawmakers can have input through their committees, an olive branch to the incoming freshmen and dozens of ambitious younger Democrats who have felt underutilized in recent years.

Will Democrats Fall in Line for Pelosi?

If those who promised to oppose her keep their word, she’ll fall short of 218 votes.

Democrats have won 228 House races and are favored in five more. Together that’s 233 seats, a gain of 40. But Mrs. Pelosi still has work to do to collect the 218 votes she’ll need when the House meets Jan. 3 to select its presiding officer.

During the midterm election campaign, 12 incumbent Democratic representatives said they would not support Mrs. Pelosi for speaker, along with 10 newly elected freshmen, plus four Democrats who lead their contests but haven’t yet been declared winners.

Democrats will likely enjoy a 15-seat margin after the remaining contests are settled, so if the 26 anti-Pelosi Democrats keep their word, Mrs. Pelosi could fall 11 votes short.

But anti-Pelosi members have an option besides voting for another Democrat. They could vote “present.” Every two “present” votes reduce the total number needed to become speaker by one. If all 26 Pelosi skeptics voted present, that would leave her with 207 Democratic votes, more than the 202 votes Republicans could muster. Mrs. Pelosi would be speaker, but badly weakened. And that might be good enough for Democratic dissidents.

The Minority Leader’s Only Job

House Republicans are about to discover the pain of irrelevance.

Mr. McCarthy is no policy wonk, preferring to focus on the electoral details of winning seats. That’s more important than policy when you’re in the minority since the media won’t report what the GOP proposes in any case. House Republicans can play important roles in defending Trump Administration officials, when warranted, against Democratic excess.

But the first—the only—job of a House minority is to become a majority. Their best chance will be 2020 when freshman Democrats are most vulnerable as they run for re-election the first time. Defeat enough of them and Mr. McCarthy could be Mr. Speaker.

America Is Not Yet Lost

The U.S. may yet become another Turkey or Hungary — a state that preserves the forms of democracy but has become an authoritarian regime in practice. But it won’t happen as easily or as quickly as many of us had feared.

.. never in the course of our nation’s history have we been ruled by people less trustworthy.

.. And the growing evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia doesn’t seem to have induced any prominent Republicans who weren’t already anti-Trump to take a stand. Instead, we’ve seen erstwhile critics like Lindsey Graham become obsequious toadies promoting Trump properties.
.. we need to be realistic about the likely results of Robert Mueller’s investigation. The best bet is that no matter what Mueller finds, no matter how damning and no matter what Trump does — even if it involves blatant obstruction of justice — Republican majorities in Congress will back up their president and continue to sing his praises.
.. as long as Republicans control Congress, constitutional checks and balances are effectively a dead letter.
.. It’s going to be hard, because the game is definitely rigged. Remember, Trump lost the popular vote but ended up in the White House anyway, and the midterm elections will be anything but fair. Gerrymandering and the concentration of Democratic-leaning voters in urban districts have created a situation in which Democrats could win a large majority of votes yet still fail to take the House of Representatives.
.. Our democracy needs two decent parties, and at this point the G.O.P. seems to be irretrievably corrupt.

A Narrower Majority for Republicans Could Widen the House Divide

Some members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus met privately on Wednesday to discuss agitating for more clout, which could take the form of a challenge to Mr. Ryan, or a call for rules changes that the speaker is likely to oppose.

.. Nonpartisan analysts are forecasting that Democrats will pick up five to 20 seats next week, well shy of the 30 needed to retake control.

.. They also have been weighing rules changes they would like to see — within the party and for the House as a whole — largely intended to empower members with responsibilities typically reserved for leadership, including the selection of committee chairpersons.

.. Members of the caucus are also concerned about a push from more moderate Republicans to toss out the so-called motion to vacate the chair, a procedural move through which a single member can force a vote to remove the speaker. One member of the Freedom Caucus, Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, tried to use it to oust John A. Boehner from his speakership last year, prompting many — including Mr. Ryan — to criticize it.

.. Their latest discussions — and the fact that a narrower Republican majority would mean Mr. Ryan could afford to lose fewer votes to retain his speakership — have raised the prospect that the group could resort to political hostage-taking to fulfill their demands.