House Democrats consider removing Pelosi as speaker after disappointing election

It would not be the first challenge to her leadership

Josh Marcus
Thursday 05 November 2020 04:37
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Democrats hold the House in 2020 election, Nancy Pelosi says

Congressional Democrats are considering backing a challenger for Nancy Pelosi’s position as Speaker of the House, following a disappointing election where the party didn’t make the kind of gains she had promised, The Hill reports.

Two moderate congressional Democrats said they and other centrists were considering ousting from leadership the long-serving politician from California, citing divisions within the party between progressives and moderates.

“It’s time for Democrats to elevate a new generation of leadership in both the House and the Senate,” one lawmaker told the site. “Americans are clearly afraid of ‘socialism,’ want safe streets and neighbourhoods and to vote for people who they believe will help put more money in their pockets. While Democratic policies can adequately address those issues, our messaging mechanism clearly cannot.”

Another said they are considering backing one of Ms Pelosi’s top lieutenants, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, for the position instead. “He bridges moderates and progressives better than anyone. And most importantly, he’s not Nancy Pelosi.”

Mr Jeffries’ staff said he isn’t planning on running for Speaker, and instead hopes to retain his current post in Democratic leadership elections.

The Speaker’s chief spokesman Drew Hammill told The Hill, “Today is not about the race for Speaker. Today is about the race for the White House and ensuring that our Members and candidates in uncalled races have the support they need. That is our focus.”

Ahead of the election, Speaker Pelosi predicted Democrats would make even more gains than they did in 2018 when they retook the House, so much so their strength would project into 2022 elections.

“This year, I’m trying to win it two years in advance — by being so substantial in this election that as soon as we start into the next year, people will see our strength,” she told the Associated Press.

Though votes are still being counted, Democrats will likely hang onto the House, but they haven’t made the kind of inroads they’d hoped in competitive Republican districts; instead, Republicans unseated Democratic incumbents in places like South Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Carolina, and defended other seats Democrats deemed in play.

It’s not the first time Ms Pelosi’s position has been in question. In 2018, she fended off a challenge from a small group of Democrats. She had also originally planned to step aside after the 2016 election, but told The Washington Post that being one of the only women in a senior position in national government after Mr Trump’s election helped convince her to  stay, and that she was a “master legislator.”

"I am a master legislator. I just love it," she told the paper. "I consider myself a weaver, like I have a loom. And I bring all these different threads together."

Ms Pelosi helped steer the landmark Affordable Care Act through Congress under the Obama administration, but the last four years have proved more difficult. Under the Trump administration key goals like multiple rounds of coronavirus aid and Donald Trump’s impeachment have floundered.  

Still, Ms Pelosi remains a prodigious fundraiser, having netted Democrats nearly $228 million in 2020, and her position itself remains comfortable after she bested her first challenge from a Democrat in 33 years, defeating democratic socialist Shahid Buttar.

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