U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan isn’t giving up his fight to keep Nancy Pelosi from taking over as speaker of the House – even though no candidate has stepped forward to challenge her.
Ryan of Howland, D-13th, among the leaders of the anti-Pelosi group, said he’s confident there is enough opposition among Democrats to keep her from reaching the needed votes to get elected speaker Jan. 3.
Pelosi won the Democratic caucus’ nomination for the position Nov. 28 with 203 of the 238 votes cast. When the House meets next month to vote on a speaker, Pelosi needs 218 votes, one more than half of the body’s 435 members, to win under normal circumstances. However, some can skip the vote and others can vote “present,” lowering that 218 threshold.
Though 238 votes were cast in the Democratic caucus meeting, The Washington Post said Democrats will likely control 235 seats next year.
Ryan said about 23 or 24 Democrats, including himself, will vote against Pelosi as speaker on the House floor, “and we’re talking with a few other people. It’s going to be close.”
“First and foremost, this was an election of change,” Ryan said. “Voters who voted for Democratic candidates voted for change. Many of those elected said they’d come to Washington and vote against Nancy Pelosi. It was the difference-maker in a lot of those elections. They were against the status quo.”
Those incoming freshmen House members are having “their arms twisted” to vote for Pelosi on Jan. 3, Ryan said.
“The whole country is clamoring for change,” he said. “It’s wrong to not give people the change they want. Several have gone back on their commitment” to not vote for Pelosi.
Ryan admits Pelosi “holds all the cards. Lobbyists and big-time donors are calling members of Congress to pressure them. It’s hard not to crack.”
Ryan said he holds out hope that someone will challenge Pelosi, but it won’t be him.
“If we continue to have the numbers to stop her from getting to 218, if she doesn’t have enough votes and it looks like there will be a messy floor fight, I can see someone emerging to challenge her,” he said.
Pelosi has been Democratic leader since 2003 and was speaker when Democrats had the House majority from 2007 to 2010.
Ryan unsuccessfully ran for House Democratic leader in 2016, losing to Pelosi 134 to 63.
“It’s unfair to think only one person can serve,” he said.
Ryan said Democrats continue to ignore the Midwest.
“Of the top six Democrats [running for House leadership], none are from the Midwest and only one is from the South,” he said. “We’ve turned completely into a coastal party. There’s a concern that our party has been tied to the coasts and lost its connection to working people.”
Ryan is poised next month to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee. It controls the purse strings of the legislative branch overseeing the spending of the House, the Capitol police, the Library of Congress, the Government Accountability Office and is one of only 12 Appropriations subcommittees. It also puts Ryan in a position of power.
Is he concerned that his vocal battle against Pelosi could jeopardize that appointment?
“No, it’s party politics,” he said of the speaker fight. “I would hope someone wouldn’t get punished for representing their constituents.”
Ryan along with U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Kathleen Rice of New York – the three leaders of the anti-Pelosi movement – met with Pelosi last week behind closed doors.
“I told her these new members made promises, and they said they came here for change, and I’m deeply concerned that if they went back on their word that they won’t be [re-elected] in two years,” Ryan said. “She thought these candidates would be fine if they voted against her in caucus and voted present on the floor. That’s a cute ploy that won’t work. This is not personal. It has nothing to do with personalities. It’s about us keeping a long-term majority” in the House.
Ryan said others in last week’s meeting wanted Pelosi to commit to serving for only a specific short period of time and then step down.
“It didn’t go over well” with Pelosi, Ryan said.
Statistics show that Ohio’s 13th District had the second-biggest swing toward Republicans in the country from 2016 to 2018. Ryan went from 67.7 percent of the vote in 2016 to 60.8 percent last month.
It should be noted that his Republican opponent in 2016, Richard Merckel, did virtually no campaigning while Chris DePizzo, his opponent in the recent election, worked very hard. Also, winning 60.8 percent of the vote is a pretty strong victory, and the days of Democrats getting 75-percent of the vote in the Mahoning Valley are over.
“I took on Nancy Pelosi, and I still got hit with being tied to her,” said Ryan, who voted about 95 percent of the time with Pelosi. “Also, we’re running into those national headwinds that say the Democratic Party has forgotten working-class people. The president is hitting us on that, and we’re doubling down on a coastal party that comes across as elite. Guys like me are running into the national headwinds.”