GOP sits back and enjoys Dem fight over Pelosi

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 BoehnerK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul The Hill's 12:30 Report: McGahn inflames Dem divisions on impeachment MORE (R-Ohio).

Now the tables have turned as a group of Democratic insurgents try to deny House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Trump-Pelosi fight threatens drug pricing talks MORE (D-Calif.) from reclaiming the Speaker’s gavel, even after she helped return her party to power for the first time since 2010.

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“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 Wilbur MoultonRepublicans attempt to amend retirement savings bill to include anti-BDS language CNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment 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 Louise FudgeOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access House Administration Committee to make election security a 'primary focus' Dems rally behind Omar as Trump escalates attacks MORE (D-Ohio), the only lawmaker who was openly considering a Speaker’s bid, and Rep. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsDemocratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Democratic senators unveil 'Medicare X' bill to expand coverage US labor unions say NAFTA replacement doesn't go far enough for workers 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. IsraelThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes The lonely world of Justin Amash Israel needs bipartisan support 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 ColeEx-GOP lawmaker pens op-ed calling for Trump to be impeached House panel approves language revoking 2001 war authority as Iran tensions spike Conservatives ask White House to abandon Amazon talks over Pentagon contract 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 John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' 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 ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill 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.”