Victory aside, Pelosi’s return as House speaker not a given
Vilified by Republicans on the campaign trail, Nancy Pelosi emerged as President Donald Trump’s preferred choice to become speaker of the House, arriving on Capitol Hill with an air of inevitability after leading her party back to the majority.
As Trump and Pelosi extended overtures across Pennsylvania Avenue, they also shadowboxed around the new dynamic created by the House’s ability to probe the president’s business dealings and his administration. The president warned Democrats not to push too hard with their investigations, or he would smack back even harder; Pelosi vowed that they would conduct responsible oversight.
The two have reasons to cooperate. Both want to score legislative wins to bring to voters ahead of the 2020 election. They talked on Election Night about doing an infrastructure package and lowering health care costs, particularly around prescription drugs, priorities for both sides.
Pelosi is likely to win first-round voting this month to become leader, when she needs half of House Democrats to support her. But becoming speaker requires a majority of the full House, 218 votes, and her slim majority – now at 222 – leaves her little cushion.
Democrats who want new leadership have been whispering about it for weeks, and on Wednesday, several Pelosi opponents announced their intent to run for the top posts.
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who ran against Pelosi last year as a centrist alternative, said colleagues want to do what’s best for the new members coming from districts that just flipped from Republicans. He said those Democrats need to be able to run for re-election in two years without being saddled with the GOP’s attacks on Pelosi.
“The one thing that keeps emerging in the conversation is, What do we have to do to protect our new members?” Ryan said. “What are we doing to protect the majority makers?”
Fallout on the Republican side is just as complicated, with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California facing a challenge from conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for the top spot in their shrunken ranks. Both said they will seek the job of minority leader.
Republican leadership elections are next week.
For Pelosi, Trump’s endorsement Wednesday could be just what she needs to push past the naysayers and help neutralize the critics. He said he would be happy to help “supply her the necessary votes.”