Pelosi, potential challenger Fudge hold 'candid' discussion

Pelosi, potential challenger Fudge hold 'candid' discussion
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record MORE (D-Calif.) huddled Friday with a potential rival for Speaker, Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeFederal employees turn their backs on Agriculture secretary after relocation plans announced Federal employees turn their backs on Agriculture secretary after relocation plans announced Lawmakers clash after Dem reads letter on House floor calling Trump supporters 'racist,' 'dumb' MORE (D-Ohio), as the Democratic infighting intensified over who will lead their newly won majority next year.

Neither Pelosi nor Fudge disclosed details of their 45-minute conversation, which took place in Pelosi’s office in the Capitol. The meeting was brokered by Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCummings requests interview with Census official over new allegations on citizenship question Cummings requests interview with Census official over new allegations on citizenship question Top Democrats question legal basis for appointing Cuccinelli as temporary immigration chief MORE (D-Md.), among the most powerful figures in the Congressional Black Caucus and a strong supporter of Pelosi. Both Fudge and Cummings have chaired the CBC in previous years.

“We had a candid and respectful conversation," Pelosi said in a terse statement.

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Fudge is being lobbied heavily by a group of anti-Pelosi insurgents to challenge Pelosi, who’s been at the top of the party since 2003.

Before the meeting, Fudge, walking down the hallway to the Capitol, told The Hill she had not made any decision yet about jumping into the Speaker’s race against Pelosi.  

Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettFederal employees turn their backs on Agriculture secretary after relocation plans announced Federal employees turn their backs on Agriculture secretary after relocation plans announced Chris Evans talks NATO, Marvel secrets on Capitol Hill MORE, a Democrat from the Virgin Islands who was walking with her, quickly interjected: “I think she would be great."

Fudge later told reporters she would make her decision about the race sometime after Thanksgiving. 

The timeline leaves little room for Fudge to rally support before the caucus leadership votes, which are scheduled for Nov. 28.

While Pelosi foes are propping up Fudge as a viable candidate who could make history as the first black Speaker in U.S. history, Pelosi continues to roll out endorsements from Fudge’s base, the Congressional Black Caucus, which Fudge previous led.

Members of the CBC backing Pelosi include senior Reps. John LewisJohn LewisGeorgia commissioner seeking M in damages after being punished for calling John Lewis a 'racist pig' Georgia commissioner seeking M in damages after being punished for calling John Lewis a 'racist pig' First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides MORE (D-Ga.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Karen BassKaren Ruth BassHouse hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate House hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (D-Calif.), Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersFacebook's new cryptocurrency raises red flags for critics Facebook's new cryptocurrency raises red flags for critics Facebook's crypto experiment will languish on Capitol Hill MORE (D-Calif.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a close friend to Fudge who suggested Thursday that her challenge of Pelosi could harm his bid to become majority whip.

On Friday, Rep. Andre CarsonAndré CarsonLawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing House passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions Is the collusion theory dead? MORE (D-Ind.), yet another CBC member, backed Pelosi.

“Pelosi put the first Muslim on” the Intelligence Committee. “I’m Team Pelosi,” Carson said, referring to himself, the second Muslim American ever elected to Congress.

“100 percent overjoyed to support Nancy Pelosi. Marcia hasn’t said she’s going to run for anything, and I’m for Pelosi,” added Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonHouse hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate House hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info MORE (D-Fla.), another Black Caucus member and a veteran of the civil rights movement.

Wilson added that “when you find somebody who can deliver this many new members to a caucus and who carries the entire caucus on her back,” that person deserves to be Speaker.

Pelosi and her allies are arguing that she’s the best qualified to take on President TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' MORE and Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Senate, since she was previously Speaker under a Republican president and has experience at the negotiation table.

“That’s her ... strongest case,” said Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthPelosi slated to deliver remarks during panel hearing on poverty Who are the House Democrats backing Trump impeachment? Who are the House Democrats backing Trump impeachment? MORE (D-Ky.), another Pelosi supporter.

“At this dangerous moment in history — and I believe that it is — we need someone battle-tested, someone who has been in the room where it happens with the president and the top leadership,” echoed Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHouse Democrats investigate oil companies' involvement in fuel standards rollback House Democrats investigate oil companies' involvement in fuel standards rollback Trump administration defends controversial changes to family planning program on Capitol Hill MORE (D-Ill.), a strong Pelosi ally. “Without her, there would be no woman at that small table.”

The male-dominated insurgents have heard those criticisms loud and clear, and in recent days they’ve promoted the notion of elevating a woman to the top spot. Fudge was the first to announce publicly that she’s interested.

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanAnthony Bourdain's alma mater creates scholarship in his honor one year after death Anthony Bourdain's alma mater creates scholarship in his honor one year after death 2020 Democrats share their families' immigration histories MORE (D-Ohio), who challenged Pelosi unsuccessfully in 2016, is among Fudge’s top boosters. He’s pressing his fellow Buckeye to jump in the race, offering to lead her whip operation. Not only would Fudge be the first African American Speaker, Ryan said, she’d also bring a Midwestern voice to a leadership table that’s tilted heavily in favor of coastal figures.

“If you look at the leadership races right now, there is nobody in leadership anywhere from New Mexico to the East Coast,” Ryan said.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the fact she’s entertaining this,” he continued. “The country needs to come together, our caucus need to come together — we need to heal. And Marcia Fudge, in my estimation, is one of the people who could make that happen.”

Updated at 1:27 p.m.