Pelosi, potential challenger Fudge hold 'candid' discussion

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

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor Panic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda MORE (D-Calif.) huddled Friday with a potential rival for Speaker, Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeBiden administration launches new national initiative to fight homelessness Sanders goes back to 2016 playbook to sell .5T budget Activists detail legal fight against HUD for Philadelphia housing 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 CummingsFormer GOP congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik suing Candace Owens for defamation Former Cummings staffer unveils congressional bid McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee 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 Plaskett20 years later: Washington policymakers remember 9/11 Plaskett slams GOP rep for saying Black Lives Matter 'doesn't like the old-fashioned family' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help 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 LewisDebt ceiling fight pits corporate America against Republicans House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power Michelle Obama looks to mobilize voters for midterms MORE (D-Ga.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail Lawmakers say police reform talks are over MORE (D-Calif.), Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBiden administration defends handling of Haitians amid uproar DHS suspends horse patrols but ramps up Haiti repatriation flights Maxine Waters: What we witnessed with Haitian migrants takes us back hundreds of years 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 CarsonPressure builds on Democratic leadership over HBCU funding Man who authorities say brought Molotov cocktails, firearms to Capitol on Jan. 6 to plead guilty Omar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy 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 WilsonFrederica Wilson rails against Haitian deportation flights, calls treatment 'inhumane' Biden administration defends handling of Haitians amid uproar Biden's embrace of Trump-era border policy frustrates Democrats 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 TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe 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 YarmuthHouse panel set to take up Democrats' .5T bill this weekend The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Pelosi signals she won't move .5T bill without Senate-House deal 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 SchakowskyDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions American workers need us to get this pandemic under control around the world Democrats repeal prohibition on funding abortions abroad 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) RyanOhio Republican tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in Rep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress 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.