House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday fended off a challenge to her long leadership reign, defeating Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in a closed-door vote prompted largely by Donald Trump’s unlikely ascension to the White House.
Pelosi got 134 votes to Ryan’s 63 — winning 68 percent of the votes after declaring before the election that she had the support of two-thirds of the caucus. The victory sends a message that while there’s a growing appetite for major changes in the party’s leadership structure and messaging tactics, it’s not strong enough to loosen Pelosi’s grip on a liberal-heavy group that’s rarely challenged her authority.
Ryan and his supporters had argued that the Democrats’ grim performance in this year’s elections — the latest in a string of cycles planting Republicans firmly in the majority — was a clear signal that Pelosi’s leadership strategy has failed to attract the broad coalition of voters required to return the Speaker’s gavel to the Democrats’ hands.
The critics pointed, in particular, to the party’s alienation of the middle-class Rust Belt workers, who flocked to Trump and secured victories for a long list of vulnerable Republicans down the ballot. Ryan, who represents an Ohio manufacturing district that’s struggled to keep pace with globalization and rebound from the Great Recession, said he was the right fit to make inroads with those voters.
Most Democrats disagreed, opting to keep Pelosi and her top lieutenants — Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Jim Clyburn (S.C.) — in charge of efforts to improve the party’s fortunes heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
The vote sent a message that a majority of Democrats consider the long experience of the current leadership team — combined with Pelosi’s celebrated reputation for uniting the caucus — as indispensable assets in the legislative fights to come.
Pelosi was nominated by fellow California Rep. Adam Schiff (D), with seconding speeches by members representing a spectrum of caucus constituencies, including Reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas) of the Hispanic Caucus and Gwen Moore (Wis.) of the Black Caucus.
“No one is a better tactician than Nancy Pelosi,” Schiff said, according to an aide in the room.
Pelosi vowed to put the fight behind her in an effort to unify the Democrats for the sake of defending President Obama’s legislative legacy from the incoming Trump administration and the Republicans who will keep control of both chambers next year.
But she’s also acknowledged the party’s internal unrest, particularly among junior members frustrated by the lack of leadership opportunities, and several proposals she introduced to empower younger lawmakers were also adopted by the Democrats during Wednesday’s meeting.
While Pelosi’s proposed caucus reforms were welcomed by many junior members, some lawmakers in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are pushing back hard against the idea that seniority would be an excluding factor in the race up the leadership ladder.
SOURCE: MIKE LILLIS