The move ensures a two-week debate about the minority leader’s future, though no one has stepped up to challenge her yet.
By Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan
Published: 11/15/16 – 09:03 AM EST
Updated: 11/15/16 – 06:52 PM EST
Nancy Pelosi’s hold on the House Democratic Caucus is being tested.
Fresh off an Election Day embarrassment, and facing an uprising from her rank-and-file members, Pelosi grudgingly agreed to postpone leadership elections scheduled for Thursday. Democrats will now vote for their leaders on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The delay is designed to give Democrats time to figure out why they failed to make bigger gains against a Republican ticket led by Donald Trump. Instead of picking up the 10 to 20 seats they had once hoped — or even the majority they secretly dreamed about — Democrats have netted only a half-dozen seats so far, with some races still to be called.
This poor showing has led to a serious round of finger-pointing among Democrats. The culprits range from Hillary Clinton to FBI Director James Comey to their own leadership’s failure to craft an economic message that would appeal to rural white voters.
Pelosi doesn’t appear to be in any serious danger of being ousted. For starters, no one has come forward yet to challenge her, though Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is cautiously weighing a bid for minority leader.
But the next two weeks will now be a debate about the California Democrat’s future. After 14 years of Pelosi’s rule, some Democrats are asking whether it’s time for someone else.
“It’s a big deal because I think our leadership started out today thinking it was business as usual,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). “And I think that probably not just our leadership but many people in our caucus were surprised at the level of discontent in our caucus.”
Immediately after the Nov. 8 election, Pelosi suggested moving back the date of leadership elections. But then she settled on Thursday after what she said was an outpouring of support from her colleagues to move ahead.
“I was ready to go with after Thanksgiving because I didn’t want the new members to be spending all their time worrying about who they are going to vote for this, that or the other thing,” Pelosi told her colleagues, according to an aide in the room. “Then, many of the members were saying, ‘Why are you delaying the elections?’ And the press was picking that up. ‘Why are you delaying the elections?’ I’m not delaying it.”
But several members pushed back, arguing they should just formally postpone the proceedings for several weeks in order to review the election cycle and why they fared so poorly as a party.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) offered the motion to delay the elections, and Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) seconded. There was heated back and forth over the issue. The motion was about to be ruled out of order by Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California when Pelosi acquiesced.
Pelosi was described as “very angry,” “furious” and “extremely defensive” by multiple sources during what was an often “raucous” gathering.
“I know that a lot of people, particularly in the press, believe that was some kind of first step in a coup d’etat, and I’m telling you it wasn’t,” Cleaver said after the 90-minute closed-door session. “I think the loss can be described as earthshaking. It would be folly to follow that Nov. 8 election with business as usual.”
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