WASHINGTON — When you enter the Capitol offices of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, the first picture you see was shot on Jan. 4, 2007, the day she became the first woman to serve as speaker.
Some 19 kids, including her grandchildren, surround Pelosi, who was just sworn in. She is thrusting the speaker’s gavel triumphantly and joyfully above her head.
With the Democrats winning control of the House on Nov. 6, Pelosi is campaigning to reclaim that speakership on Jan. 3. The San Francisco Democrat, the daughter of a Baltimore mayor who grew up in politics, does not have the votes she needs yet.
Minting a speaker is a two-step process and Pelosi has time — and power — on her side.
Pelosi is expected to easily win the first skirmish on Wednesday, when Democrats meet behind closed doors to choose their leaders.
In advance of the votes, Pelosi has been meeting one-on-one with House Democrats who want to see her and picking off in the process some of her foes.
Illinois Democrats Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Rep.-elect Jesus “Chuy” Garcia met with Pelosi on Tuesday.
Shortly after their meetings, the two publicly declared their backing for Pelosi.
Rep.-elect Sean Casten, who did not seek a face-to-face with Pelosi, on Tuesday told the Sun-Times he supports her speakership bid. None of the three had issues with Pelosi leading the House again.
In the late afternoon, Pelosi, huddled with about 30 key supporters to organize for the Wednesday vote. I talked to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., as she walked out of that meeting.
Every House Democratic segment, “from the most conservative to the progressive Democrats were in the room,” Schakowsky said.
Each member was given a list of other members to call. “What we want to guarantee tomorrow is our supporters being present and voting.”
“…I have always said my money is on Nancy Pelosi, and I have never been more convinced she is going to be the speaker. The momentum is building. She is meeting with a lot of members and bringing more and more of them to her team,” Schakowsky said.
The new Congress will have either 233 or 234 Democrats, with one California race undecided.
On Wednesday, Pelosi only needs the majority of just the Democrats to win. On Jan. 3, the math for Pelosi gets tougher. The entire 435-member House decides on a speaker, with the new speaker needing a majority of all votes cast.
There are some 15 or so “Never Nancy” House Democrats, including Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., who oppose Pelosi but have not come up with an alternative candidate. This group shows signs of softening, especially if Pelosi, 78, convinces them she is on a path to create a next generation of leaders.
The wild card is the nine centrist House Democrats, including Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., who come from the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a spin-off of the No Labels organization. The nine have no beef with Pelosi per se. They are just playing hardball while they have some leverage.
They are opposing Pelosi unless they score some changes in the rules that will dilute the power of leadership and make it easier for bipartisan legislation to get votes, a move many Democrats fear could make it easier for GOP policies to advance.
Negotiations are ongoing, and that group has already trimmed its demands to a handful of items. While some progress has been made, there is no deal, so Lipinski, his spokesman said, on Wednesday will be “not be voting for anyone for speaker.”
But then there is January.
Garcia and Casten
Garcia spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times in the Capitol after emerging from his meeting with Pelosi. Garcia said they they discussed policies dealing with health care, infrastructure, immigration, including protecting “Dreamers” and the border crisis.
Garcia said he told Pelosi his requests for committees were either Transportation and Infrastructure or Financial Services.
I talked to Casten in the Longworth House Cafeteria just after he met with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. A former energy industry executive, Casten is seeking a slot on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Bustos bid for DCCC chair
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., is running for the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the main political shop for House Democrats. When we talked on Tuesday, before Bustos was to address House Democratic freshmen, she was upbeat about her Wednesday chances in the four-member contest.
Pelosi’s Tuesday night letter to House Democrats: “History is in a hurry.”
Pelosi asked for the support of her Democratic colleagues in a letter released on Tuesday night. Key paragraph is about her acknowledgement about giving a boost to new talent, because “history is in a hurry.”
“We all agree that history is in a hurry, and we need to accelerate the pace of change in Congress. We have been blessed with a Democratic Caucus now enhanced by an historic Freshman Class. My responsibility is to recognize the myriad of talent and tools at our disposal to take us in to the future by showcasing the idealism, intellect and imagination of our Caucus.”
November 27, 2018
Dear Democratic Colleague and Members-elect,
In every new Congress, when the Freshmen arrive, the Members stand in awe and say, “Here come the fresh recruits. Who among them will lead in this body? Who among them will seek higher office? Who among them will be President of the United States?”
Our responsibility is to ensure that the Freshman Class has every opportunity to succeed. This class of 2018 is an historic one by dint of its experience, its diversity and its commitment to deliver progress in the lives of hard-working Americans. Their impact will and must be transformative for the Congress and the Country.
It is my hope that as we deliver on our For The People agenda – lower health costs, higher wages by rebuilding America and restoring integrity in government – we do so in a way that will address economic disparity in this Country. This Freshman Class has also made integrity in government its priority, supporting H.R. 1, in our Better Deal for Our Democracy. As Justice Brandeis said, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
The American people voted for a check and balance on President Trump by sending a Democratic Majority to Washington. In order for us to honor that charge and engage the public, I suggest that our sessions on the House Floor be deemed America’s Town Hall meetings. As President Lincoln said, “public sentiment is everything.” The more open the Congress, the more the public will be engaged in our proceedings, and the better we can govern.
I am grateful to so many Members of the 116th Congress for their support and ideas. We all agree that history is in a hurry, and we need to accelerate the pace of change in Congress. We have been blessed with a Democratic Caucus now enhanced by an historic Freshman Class. My responsibility is to recognize the myriad of talent and tools at our disposal to take us in to the future by showcasing the idealism, intellect and imagination of our Caucus.
The public has entrusted us to save our democracy. It is our patriotic duty to deliver a more open, responsive, bipartisan and unifying government For The People.
I respectfully ask for your vote for Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Thank you for your leadership and friendship.