Chance of Dem challenge to Pelosi grows

Associated Press

Washington — Reeling from an electoral shellacking, discontented House Democrats on Thursday signaled they may challenge Rep. Nancy Pelosi as minority leader. Republicans focused on wrapping up a short-term spending bill into early next year when an all-GOP government will rule.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan said he would decide soon on whether to run against Pelosi in party elections later this month.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety in the caucus and a lot of people want some change,” said the 43-year-old congressman. “I would think it has to be at the top “

Pelosi, well-known for her ability to count votes, said in announcing her candidacy on Wednesday that she has the backing of two-thirds of the caucus. Ryan dismissed that claim as disgruntled Democrats clamor for change after losing the White House and remaining in the minority in the House and Senate with minimal gains.

In a closed-door session, Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., said she told her colleagues that “if we don’t, as a party, have our leaders accept responsibility for where we are, we can’t move forward and get to the point where our message is going to resonate with voters.”

Pelosi, 76, is a survivor who enjoys enormous respect and goodwill among most Democrats, even as many of her closest allies have left Congress. She has managed to maintain unity within the diverse flock of House Democrats and is an unparalleled fundraiser for them, collecting more than $100 million in the past cycle alone.

She was crucial in ensuring President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul became law in 2010. Even in the minority under Obama, Pelosi has been a savvy negotiator with GOP leaders when Democratic votes were needed to advance legislation.

The first female speaker of the House, Pelosi has led House Democrats since 2002.

“When somebody challenges you, your supporters turn out, both internally in the caucus and in the country,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference.

Angry lawmakers expressed their frustration in the closed-door session, and some grew angrier after Pelosi left the room to hold her weekly news conference, according to those who attended the session and spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the session.

In the meeting, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said he issued a challenge in the caucus “that anybody who is running for any position of leadership needs to come back and explain to us how we’re going to be able to survive one, the Trump years, but two, to not have the same excuse we have every two years where there’s some external factor that somehow causes us to not gain the seats that we need.”

The elections had been scheduled for Thursday but were postponed until Nov. 30.

On the budget front, House Republican leaders said President-elect Donald Trump wants a short-term spending bill to keep the government running through March of next year.

The current stopgap spending bill runs out in less than a month, on Dec. 9. House and Senate negotiators are working on a bill they could pass before leaving for the holidays.

House Republicans met Thursday behind closed doors with Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Speaker Paul Ryan told them the new administration prefers a four-month extension of spending.

Such a move would let the Republican-controlled government boost military spending while making deep cuts in domestic programs next year.