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 PelosiTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Democratic debate starts with immediate question on Trump impeachment White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas 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 RiceMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch Democrat offers measure to prevent lawmakers from sleeping in their offices MORE (D-N.Y.), a vocal Pelosi detractor, said Thursday. 

Rep. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderCaution for Democrats: Voters care more about drug pricing than impeaching Trump Here are the House Democrats who aren't backing Trump impeachment inquiry Centrist Democrats fret over impeachment gamble 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 KindAmerica's workers and small business owners need the SECURE Act Blood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Democrats see whistleblower report as smoking gun 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 FudgeHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference Harris wins endorsement of former CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge 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 Gore2020 general election debates announced Odds place Greta Thunberg as front-runner for this year's Nobel Peace Prize Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia 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 LewisThe 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Detroit police chief calls Tlaib facial recognization idea 'racist' Ossoff raises 0k in first three weeks of Senate bid, campaign says MORE (D-Ga.), Bobby RushBobby Lee RushHouse Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries 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: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference Congress must get pharma out of NAFTA 2.0 Reddit, Google to testify before House panel on tech's legal protections 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 TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyState Dept. official told to 'lay low' after voicing concerns about Giuliani: Dem lawmaker Democrats see John Bolton as potential star witness Top State official warned of Trump pressure campaign against Ukraine: report 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.”