House Republicans are reveling in the messy fight for Speaker that is taking place across the aisle.
A few years ago, it was a band of conservative bomb-throwers who sparked chaos in their conference with their repeated attempts to oust then-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).
Now the tables have turned as a group of Democratic insurgents try to deny House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Of partisan fights and follies, or why Democrats should follow Manchin, not Sanders MORE (D-Calif.) from reclaiming the Speaker’s gavel, even after she helped return her party to power for the first time since 2010.
“For those asking, Moulton is NOT on our payroll,” joked National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Matt Gorman on Twitter last week, referring to Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation GOP lawmaker says he did not threaten US Embassy staff in Tajikistan House panel approves B boost for defense budget MORE (D-Mass.), one of the most vocal Pelosi critics.
Frustrated rank-and-file members have long been clamoring for change in the party’s entrenched leadership ranks, where the top three Democrats have held a firm grip on power for more than a decade. Unlike Republicans, House Democrats do not have term limits on chairmanships, which has contributed to a bottleneck in the conference.
A band of anti-Pelosi rebels has been plotting ways to take down Pelosi, including trying to recruit a candidate to challenge her for the Speaker’s gavel. The group released a letter Monday containing 16 Democratic signatures vowing to oppose Pelosi in both the closed-door caucus vote and on the House floor.
But Pelosi has been picking off her detractors one-by-one, including 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 only lawmaker who was openly considering a Speaker’s bid, and Rep. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsBiden's keeping the Canada-US border closed makes no sense Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada Canadian ambassador calls for close coordination in handling of US border MORE (D-N.Y.), who was one of the original rebel letter signers. Both reversed their positions and announced their support for Pelosi this week after securing various commitments from the California Democrat.
While Pelosi has not yet locked down all the votes she needs to clinch the Speaker’s gavel on the floor, her latest power moves delivered a major blow to the insurgency ahead of the Nov. 28 caucus vote.
Some Democrats have expressed frustration with the intraparty squabbling that has spilled out into public view.
“We could win the Super Bowl, and at our postgame ceremony we’d bicker about whether or not we should keep our team’s head coach for the next season,” said former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelAnthrax was the COVID-19 of 2001 The lessons of Afghanistan are usually learned too late Do not underestimate Kathy Hochul MORE (D-N.Y.) in an op-ed for The Hill.
“In a midterm election won on what voters were discussing while sitting at their kitchen tables, the Democratic narrative is now about ‘motions to vacate the chair.’”
The House GOP, meanwhile, elected its own leaders last week with little fanfare, largely keeping its same leadership team place. There were few calls for a wholesale change in leadership, even after the party suffered brutal losses in the midterm elections.
Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeNew spotlight on secretaries of state as electoral battlegrounds Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Overnight Health Care: FDA adds new warning to J&J COVID-19 vaccine | WHO chief pushes back on Pfizer booster shot | Fauci defends Biden's support for recommending vaccines 'one on one' MORE (R-Okla.), who chaired the NRCC after Democrats won back the House in 2006, told reporters that the real leadership drama was taking place across the aisle.
“Whatever internal divisions that we have pale in comparison to what’s going on on the Democratic side,” Cole said just prior to the GOP elections.
“That’s one of the reasons we need to get this done quick — we want to give you guys an opportunity to cover their internal divisions,” he quipped.
Some Republicans — including President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE — have sounded gleeful at times when highlighting the turmoil in the Democratic conference, even musing about supplying Pelosi the Speaker votes if she falls short.
“In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats. If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!” Trump tweeted after the election.
“I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House,” he wrote in another tweet over the weekend. “She deserves this victory, she has earned it — but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away. She will win! @TomReedCongress?”
Rep. Tom ReedTom ReedLIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup It's now Pelosi's move on bipartisan roads bill The Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act is an industry game-changer MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, is actually serious about the idea, however, and said he is considering backing Pelosi for Speaker if she agrees to a package of rule reforms.
“I would be willing, as a Republican on the floor of the House, to support a Speaker candidate, including Nancy Pelosi, who supports these rule reforms,” Reed said at an event for The Hill last week. “There are other members that are as committed as I am to this on the Republican side that are willing to do that.”
Despite support from within the conference on rule changes, it’s unlikely Pelosi will see much backing from lawmakers across the aisle.
“I don’t see any Republican voting for Nancy Pelosi, and while Republicans could lower the threshold for the number of votes she needs by voting present, I don’t anticipate that she will need Republican votes to get elected Speaker,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill.
Some have speculated that Trump and others in the party are only voicing support for Pelosi to lead the House Democrats because she is the GOP’s most high-profile foil and one of the president’s chief adversaries.
Liz Mair, a GOP strategist and former spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the party would benefit from the fireworks that could result from conflicts between the California Democrat and Trump.
“Both Republicans and Democrats would agree that the more that there’s a Pelosi-Trump head-to-head match-up, generally the better,” she told The Hill. “The better it is for fundraising, if nothing else.”
But Mair noted the president’s motive behind his tweets in support of Pelosi remains unclear, pointing to positive meetings they’ve had in the past.
“You look at the Chuck [Schumer] and Nancy meeting. And I do think that it's fair to say that he had a better rapport with her than what he expected to,” she continued.
“I do think that there are a lot of issues where they have the same perspective. I mean this is why a lot of Republicans including me were not willing to back him in the primary.”