Nancy Pelosi just passed her first test toward becoming House speaker with flying colours, but there's still trouble ahead

  • Nancy Pelosi won the caucus vote to become the next speaker of the House on Wednesday, but still faces a more difficult challenge to gain the necessary 218 votes on the House floor this coming January.
  • Pelosi gained considerable ground compared with her last election to serve as the Democratic leader, but she still does not have a challenger from within the Democratic Caucus.
  • The group of Democrats opposed to her remain adamant that they want new leadership and will continue to challenge Pelosi.

WASHINGTON – Nancy Pelosi secured enough votes to win the caucus vote to become the next speaker of the House on Wednesday. But she still needs to gain some ground if she wants to make it official when the vote goes to the House floor in January.

Pelosi won an overwhelming majority of votes from the Democratic caucus:

  • 203 voted for her.
  • 32 voted against her.
  • Three left their ballots blank, and there was one absence.

For context, Pelosi had 63 Democrats voting against her for the minority leader position in 2016 when Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan challenged her in the aftermath of the 2016 election. But on Wednesday, she ran unopposed, with a handful of Democrats still seeking an alternative by the time January comes around.

Read more: Democratic opposition to Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker of the House has virtually collapsed

Through cutting deals and awarding coveted committee positions, Pelosi has managed to shore up supporters in the weeks following the 2018 midterm elections, in which Democrats took back the House majority that had eluded them for the past eight years.

While a record number of incoming Democrats had campaigned on their opposition to or scepticism of Pelosi, she has gained the support of several House members who opposed her, and she has avoided a challenge in the process.

Moments before the vote, Pelosi announced a deal with Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus, proposing a slew of rules changes. Days before, Pelosi handed out a subcommittee chairmanship to Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who was previously mulling a challenge for the speakership.

Pelosi also flipped New York Rep. Brian Higgins, who now supports her speaker bid, despite him signing a letter alongside 15 other Democrats stating their opposition to her leadership.

Outside the Wednesday morning caucus meeting, Higgins told reporters the leadership fight has been largely good for Democrats, but called it a “sloppy mess” for members to express themselves.

“Everyone has one legislative tool, and that’s their vote,” he said. “And finding a way to use that legislative tool in a way that maximizes its effectiveness, I think, is a good thing.”

Pelosi met with her detractors, who left angry and unsatisfied

And just before the caucus meeting on Wednesday, Pelosi met privately with the three Democrats leading the charge against her: Reps. Kathleen Rice, Tim Ryan, and Seth Moulton.

That meeting did not go well, with those insurgent Democrats leaving frustrated and shut down.

“Moments ago we met with Leader Pelosi and tried to engage her in a reasonable conversation about leadership transition,” Rice said in a statement after the meeting. “Unfortunately, our concerns were dismissed outright. We remain united behind our goal of new leadership and intend to vote against Leader Pelosi in Caucus and on the Floor of the House.”

Moulton expressed his frustration with leadership and the poor results of the meeting in a statement, slamming Pelosi for not following through on past commitments.

“The private sector, non-profit organisations, even the Republican Party, have been able to have the difficult conversations about what a plan for succession looks like. No one wants to see this civil conversation to spill into a floor fight,” Moulton said. “Right now, Leader Pelosi will not have the 218 votes necessary to become Speaker.”

And while Pelosi has gained a lot of ground through old-fashioned Washington dealmaking, she still needs more support in the next month – and has to hope a challenger does not arise that could win more votes from Democrats looking for another option, of which there are several.

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