House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans caught in California's recall trap Raise the debt limit while starting to fix the budget 'Justice for J6' organizer calls on demonstrators to respect law enforcement MORE's allies say they are ready to go to war with the small-but-vocal group of young Democratic insurgents who want to topple the Speaker-in-waiting.
Pelosi's foes are threatening to deny her the 218 votes needed on the House floor to be Speaker, forcing multiple rounds of voting until Democrats elect a new leader.
But some Pelosi loyalists — frustrated by the “Never Nancys” dominating headlines on Capitol Hill — are now vowing to use the same guerilla tactics to block the ascension of any other candidate not named Nancy Pelosi.
“Two can play the game. They’re going to get 20 insurgents, then I’ll get 20 insurgents” to block their candidate, Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelDemocrats repeal prohibition on funding abortions abroad Investing in child care paves the way to a better economy Democrats introduce equal pay legislation for US national team athletes MORE (D-Fla.), a staunch Pelosi ally, told The Hill. “I can find 20 rebels too that can deny anybody.”
Pelosi’s closest supporters have already jumped headfirst into the contest, making calls and pressing members to get on board following Democrats' sweeping midterm victories.
Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyAmerican workers need us to get this pandemic under control around the world Democrats repeal prohibition on funding abortions abroad Nearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards MORE (D-Ill.) said that, privately, Pelosi allies are talking to other members of their states, “making it clear within their own delegations what the costs are of … not cooperating.” Publicly, she said, they’re emphasizing the fact that the insurgents still have no one to challenge Pelosi.
“Women are really angry about this,” said Schakowsky, noting that many grassroots groups — many of them generous Democratic donors — are up in arms. “These individuals who are fighting us have a price to pay,” she said.
But Schakowsky said while Pelosi has been strategic, focused and calm, “I’m furious — I’m just furious.”
Pelosi, a master whip and procedural tactician, has a number of tools at her disposal to lure — or pressure — waffling Democrats, allies said.
Once the Pelosi-aligned Steering Committee is constituted after Thanksgiving, Pelosi will have the power to dole out or deny plum committee assignments to freshman lawmakers. As Speaker, she would also have the ability to appoint them to special committees, and approve or deny official overseas trips, known as CODELs.
“There is one outcome here: Nancy Pelosi is going to be Speaker of the House,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinGOP seeks to keep spotlight on Afghanistan as Dems advance Biden's .5T spending plan Raskin writing memoir about Jan. 6, son's suicide House Democrats demand details after Border Patrol agents accused of profiling Latinos in Michigan MORE (D-Md.).
“There is no race. I don’t care what noise there is out there. We won by the largest margin of Democrats since 1974. And she is our leader,” added Pelosi's fellow Californian Rep. Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Face mask PPE is everywhere now — including the ocean Native Americans urge Deb Haaland to help tackle pollution in communities of color MORE. “We should be celebrating the fact that Pelosi led us to the Promised Land.”
Pelosi is expected to easily win the Nov. 28 internal election for Speaker in the Democratic Caucus, where she needs only a simple majority of her roughly 230 Democratic colleagues. But to be elected Speaker on the House floor on Jan. 3, Pelosi will need at least 218 votes — more than half of the entire 435 House members and a much higher threshold than the internal caucus vote.
A handful of races across the country are still too close to call, so the exact magic number that Pelosi needs is unclear. But anti-Pelosi rebels say there are at least 17 Democrats committed to banding together and blocking her on the House floor, a move that would throw the Speaker’s race into absolute chaos.
“This is a fight and she’s a very worthy opponent, but it’s time,” said one of those rebels, Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceFailed drug vote points to bigger challenges for Democrats Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices MORE (D-N.Y.).
Rice and other Pelosi critics are downplaying the absence of a challenger, arguing their real goal is to demonstrate that Pelosi lacks the votes she needs on the floor, thereby forcing her to step out of the race altogether. At that point, a new crop of new members — lawmakers reluctant to challenge Pelosi head on — could jump into the contest.
“There’s a big talking point that you can’t beat somebody with nobody,” Rice said. “The first thing is we have to show that the leader cannot get 218, which she won’t be able to. And I think you’re going to see people emerge.”
Pelosi’s allies, meanwhile, have a warning to the detractors.
“Nancy Pelosi is not going to drop out.,” said Schakowsky.
Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeSanders goes back to 2016 playbook to sell .5T budget Activists detail legal fight against HUD for Philadelphia housing Photos of the Week: Rep. Cori Bush, Beirut clash and duck derby MORE (D-Ohio), the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, has floated the idea of running for the Speaker spot. But it is unclear if her strategy would be to challenge Pelosi directly, or jump into the race only if Pelosi steps down.
Other Pelosi allies, including Reps. Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroAmerican workers need us to get this pandemic under control around the world Democrats press Biden to step up fight against domestic hunger A permanent Child Tax Credit expansion will yield dividends to taxpayers MORE (D-Conn.) and Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersAdvocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Cori Bush hits her stride by drawing on activist past Cawthorn to introduce resolution condemning political violence after warning of 'bloodshed' if elections are 'rigged' MORE (D-Calif.), said the fight will naturally fizzle out because Pelosi will secure the support she needs.
“She is a master counter of votes,” DeLauro said. “She will be the Speaker.”
Pelosi herself is similarly bullish. On Thursday, during her first press conference since the midterms, she said she has the votes — today — to win the floor vote.
“I have overwhelming support within my caucus to be Speaker of the House,” she said.
Another Democratic lawmaker said he is on the fence about backing Pelosi but added that the insurgents’ plan to take down Pelosi with no Plan B is angering many members.
“The majority of the caucus is getting kind of antsy that the dissidents’ plan is to tank one person’s chances on the House and open it up to a free for all. It appears to some to be a nuclear option,” the Democratic lawmaker said.
“It would basically doom the caucus to minority status for the next Congress on the first vote, because [Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol 'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot MORE would be the top vote getter for multiple ballots.”
That nuclear strategy is straight out of the playbook of the House Freedom Caucus, the band of conservative bomb-throwers who plotted multiple coups against Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (R-Ohio) and eventually forced him out of the top job in 2015.
“Our caucus does not tolerate or embrace Tea Party tactics. That will not work with our members,” said a senior Democratic aide.
Melanie Zanona contributed.