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.
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.