Newly-elected House Democrats make their play for powerful positions as Pelosi seeks their votes for House speaker

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters before heading into a Democratic caucus meeting in the Capitol on Nov. 14.
  • Newly-elected House Democrats are jockeying for power as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi scrambles to assemble the required votes to be elected Speaker in the new Congress.
  • A letter drafted by Michigan Rep.-elect Elissa Slotkin is being passed around the large freshman class, asking Pelosi to place incoming Democrats on powerful committees, among other demands.
  • “Make no mistake, we are united in the belief that the Class of 2019 has a responsibility and mandate for change in the U.S. Congress,” the letter reads.

Playing on their powerful numbers following a “blue wave” election, newly-elected House Democrats are jockeying for power as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi scrambles to assemble the required votes to be elected Speaker in the new Congress.

A letter drafted by Michigan Rep.-elect Elissa Slotkin is being passed around the large freshman class, demanding that Pelosi and other Democratic leaders place incoming Democrats on the powerful Appropriations, Rules, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Financial Services committees.

It holds that the incoming class (which will make up more than 25% of the caucus) was elected on a mandate of change – and that Democratic voters want them to be a “driving force” in the legislative process.

While it’s not clear who will sign the letter besides Slotkin, the demand acknowledges that the new lawmakers aren’t necessarily united on policy specifics. More than two-thirds of the class will represent red-leaning districts while others, like Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were elected on leftist platforms in deep blue districts to replace longtime Democratic incumbents.

“We are a diverse group. Politically and ideologically, we have different views,” the letter reads. “But make no mistake, we are united in the belief that the Class of 2019 has a responsibility and mandate for change in the U.S. Congress.”

It calls for new members to fill two spots on the Steering and Policy Committee (which handles the party’s communications messaging and committee assignments), for all bills to be available for review for 72 hours before a vote, and for monthly meetings to discuss legislation with leadership.

Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, is pushing for a seat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, which would give her influence over health care, environmental issues, and energy policy – an opportunity to forward some of her key campaign promises, including single-payer healthcare and a Green New Deal.

This comes as Pelosi is working fastidiously behind the scenes to convince her colleagues – new and old – to support her bid for speaker, as an insurgent group of Democrats pushes for new, younger leadership.

The minority leader and her allies argue that her fundraising prowess, significant legislative accomplishments, recent electoral victories, and a lack of any strong progressive alternative should be enough to vault her to the speakership. Pelosi has said she’s “100 per cent” confident she’ll return to her former position as speaker in the new Congress, citing “overwhelming support” in her caucus.


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Nancy Pelosi is using gender to win over progressives in her fight to become House speaker

And the effort to replace Pelosi – spearheaded by a group of largely centrist lawmakers – took a blow last week when Rep. Marcia Fudge, who’d been put forward as a potential challenger, announced she wouldn’t run for speaker after Pelosi promised to revive a subcommittee on elections and name Fudge its chair.

Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts centrist and one of the leaders of the anti-Pelosi faction, released a statement on Monday suggesting he would be open to negotiating with Pelosi – suggesting that her two veteran deputies Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn be replaced.

But while Pelosi is expected to win the support of a majority of the Democratic caucus during a Wednesday closed-door vote, her opposition insists it has the votes to derail her bid on the House floor.

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