Incoming Michigan Dem will not back Pelosi

Incoming Michigan Dem will not back Pelosi
© Stefani Reynolds

An incoming Democratic congresswoman from Michigan is solidifying her vow not to back Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSupreme Court expands religious rights with trio of rulings Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits Democrats see victory in Trump culture war MORE’s (D-Calif.) bid for Speaker, adding to the longtime leader’s math problem as she scrambles to secure the votes to retake the gavel next year.

Rep.-elect Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), who defeated Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) in last week’s midterms, had promised voters during the campaign that she wants to see a new generation of leaders take the reins of both parties. In her first vote on the House floor, Slotkin said Thursday, she won’t break that promise.

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“I have said it many, many times: I never want to be disrespectful to anyone who has served — especially a woman who has broken glass ceilings. But you’ve got to do what your district is calling for, and in this case, for me, both sides of the aisle, just people feel that we need a new generation of leadership. And I need to hear that,” Slotkin said Thursday during a policy forum in Washington hosted by Defense One.

“I will not be supporting Leader Pelosi. I will not.”  

Slotkin did not, however, rule out the option of voting “present” during the Jan. 3 Speaker vote on the House floor — a move that would lower the threshold needed to elect the next House leader. 

“There’s lots of sort-of procedural options. I’m still trying to get my head around all of those,” Slotkin said. “But I’ve been really clear in that I’m not going to violate the very first thing I do as an elected member of Congress in front of my constituents.” 

The comments arrive as Pelosi is fighting to overcome the toughest threat to her 15-year reign at the top of the party. Pelosi retains widespread support within the caucus, and would likely skate to victory in the closed-door caucus vote for the Democrats’ Speaker nominee, which is scheduled for Nov. 28. 

But her critics say they’ve solidified signatures from 17 Democrats — a combination of incumbents and incoming freshman — vowing to oppose Pelosi in the subsequent Speaker vote on the House floor in January. The group has been circulating a letter designed to demonstrate that Pelosi cannot win the House majority in that vote and should therefore step out of the contest — a move that would spark a new race featuring younger members who have been reluctant to challenge her directly.

“It’s clear that once we are able to show that the leader can’t get to 218 votes, that ... others are going to throw their hat in the ring,” Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceNew York lawmaker spotted helping mother duck and ducklings cross busy street Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen Hillicon Valley: Tech giants poised to weather coronavirus damage | Record Facebook-FTC deal approved | Bipartisan 5G bill introduced MORE (D-N.Y.), a vocal Pelosi detractor, said Thursday. 

Rep. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes The 14 Democrats who broke with their party on coronavirus relief vote House votes to condemn Trump Medicaid block grant policy MORE (D-Ore.), among the most vocal Pelosi critics, said Thursday that the group of detractors will likely release their letter next week. The insurgents say they also have verbal commitments from a number of other lawmakers promising to oppose Pelosi on the floor, a list that includes Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and incoming-freshman Reps. Abigail Spanberger (Va.), Mike Sherrill (Mich.) and Jason Crow (Colo.).  

Rice put the total number in the mid-20 range — “if not more.”

Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew (N.J.), who has also signed the insurgents’ letter, said he was poised to meet with Pelosi, at her request, Thursday afternoon. But he warned that, after promising voters he’d oppose her leadership ambitions, his position is unwavering.

“If you didn’t want to keep your word, you shouldn’t have said it,” he said.

Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindBottom line Coronavirus culture war over reopening economy hits Capitol Hill How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle MORE (D-Wis.), who has opposed Pelosi in past Speaker votes but has not signaled his intentions this year, said Thursday he was also set to sit down with Pelosi. 

The exact numbers Pelosi needs remain unclear, because a number of midterm race are still too close to call, while a number of her opponents have not clarified if they might vote “present” on the floor. Some Republicans, meanwhile, are weighing whether to take the remarkable step of supporting Pelosi if she backs an overhaul to House rules in the next Congress. 

The insurgents have been hampered by their inability to field a challenger, lending weight to the argument from Pelosi’s supporters that there’s no one else with the legislative experience and political chops to guide the party through a crucial 2020 presidential cycle. 

“We have to have somebody who knows what they’re doing,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

Pelosi’s critics have rejected that argument, accusing Pelosi of consolidating power in a way that’s prevented newer members from boosting their leadership bonafides.

“The problem is that this power is so concentrated at the top — by design,” said Rice. “So when you say, ‘You can’t beat somebody with nobody,’ well, you haven’t allowed anyone to step up and get experience.”

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Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Ethics Committee reviewing Rep. Sanford Bishop's campaign spending The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's public standing sags after Floyd protests MORE (D-Ohio), another Pelosi critic who previously led the Black Caucus, is considering a run for Speaker. But it’s unclear if she’s eyeing a direct challenge to Pelosi, or would wait to try to fill the void created in the event that Pelosi backs out.  

Pelosi and her allies, meanwhile, have launched a furious whipping effort to build support and put down the insurgency, rallying lawmakers, liberal outside groups and prominent party leaders like Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreIntroducing the 'Great Reset,' world leaders' radical plan to transform the economy The 'blue wall' is reforming in the Rust Belt CNN coronavirus town hall to feature science author David Quammen, 'Empire' actress Taraji Henson MORE to press their case. On Thursday, Pelosi won several big victories when a number of prominent CBC members — including Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), John LewisJohn LewisIRS, taxpayers face obstacles ahead of July 15 filing deadline We must move beyond 'the rank of a mere citizen' Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter MORE (D-Ga.), Bobby RushBobby Lee RushFauci: Institutional racism playing role in disproportionate coronavirus impact on Black community Bobby Rush likens Chicago police union to KKK: 'Racist body of criminal lawlessness' Rep. Bobby Rush says Chicago officers lounged in his office as nearby stores were looted MORE (D-Ill.) and Cleaver — all announced their support for her Speaker bid.  

Pelosi, through it all, has projected nothing but confidence, saying Thursday that she has the support to win the floor vote already. And her allies are sounding a warning to the critics vying to push her out of the race.

“Nancy Pelosi is not going to drop out,” said Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHillicon Valley: Facebook civil rights audit finds 'serious setbacks' | Facebook takes down Roger Stone-affiliated accounts, pages | State and local officials beg Congress for more elections funds House Democrats press Twitter, Facebook, Google for reports on coronavirus disinformation Dingell pushes provision to curtail drunk driving in House infrastructure package MORE (D-Ill.), one of Pelosi’s closest confidantes.

The infighting is increasingly a concern in the eyes of many Democrats, who are elated at the thought of taking the House majority next year and want to shift the focus on their legislative and oversight priorities under the turbulent rule of President TrumpDonald John TrumpKimberly Guilfoyle reports being asymptomatic and 'feeling really pretty good' after COVID-19 diagnosis Biden says he will rejoin WHO on his first day in office Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyBlack Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe House committee chair requests immediate briefing on Secret Service's involvement in clearing protesters MORE (D-Va.), who has advocated for a wider dissemination of power within the top-heavy caucus, said many Democrats are “sympathetic” to the insurgents’ efforts for a leadership overhaul. 

“On the other hand,” he noted, “the idea that a small band of determined members can thwart the overwhelming will of the caucus is troubling in terms of the precedent that it sets.”

Connolly said he does not see a smooth transition, saying both sides are dug in.

“I don’t see much fluidity on this issue on either side,” he said.

“Democrats being Democrats, we like a good fight,” Connolly added. “But maybe we could live with a little less of a fight starting out with the new majority.”