Pelosi Strengthens Bid for Leadership as Top Critic Shifts Focus

(Bloomberg) -- Nancy Pelosi’s leading Democratic critic is shifting to aim at other long-standing members of the party’s House leadership as Pelosi continues to chip away at her opposition.

Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton’s focus on what he called “the entire, stagnant three-person leadership team” suggests Pelosi’s opponents still have no alternative candidate for House speaker willing to challenge Pelosi directly for the job.

Nor are there any challengers so far for her two top deputies -- Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who is running unopposed for majority leader and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who is unopposed for majority whip.

“Leader Pelosi wants to boil this down to a personal argument, but this is so much bigger than her,” Moulton said in a statement, which was first reported by the Washington Post. He said he wants to promote “leaders who reflect the future of our caucus.”

Moulton’s shift and the lack of other candidates coming forward suggest that Pelosi has a strong hand going into Democrats’ Wednesday meeting to elect their leaders. Any changes to leadership candidates this late in the game would upend internal alliances and the slate that was largely locked down even before Democrats flipped the House in the midterm election.

Alternative Slate

"If the die-hard dissidents believe what they say, then they have a burden to come up with an alternate slate for our consideration," Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a Pelosi ally, said. "And they have failed to do that."

Both Hoyer and Clyburn only need a simple majority of Democrats to secure their positions. Hoyer has the support of 155 members who signed a letter endorsing him for majority leader, and Clyburn, for now, is backed by the Congressional Black Caucus.

A spokesman for Pelosi declined to comment, as did representatives of Clyburn. Katie Grant, Hoyer’s communications director, said Hoyer “appreciates the strong support he has received from the overwhelming majority of House Democrats.”

It will be easy for Pelosi to win the party’s nomination for the top job, but the greater challenge will be to garner the 218 votes needed to take the gavel if every House member casts a vote in the Jan. 3 speaker election. Pelosi has won over at least two Democrats who signed a letter calling for new leadership, but there are more members, including incoming freshmen, who said they would vote against her even though they didn’t sign the letter.

Members of the opposition group believe they can deny Pelosi the votes to become speaker, according to an aide briefed by this group. If the current leadership team remains in place, these members recognize that it might take a failed vote Jan. 3 on the House floor to get alternative candidates to challenge Pelosi, the aide said.

Moulton’s comments are part of a larger effort by the opposition group to negotiate the terms of what a new generation of leadership would look like. Pelosi is 78, Hoyer is 79 and Clyburn is 78. Some members of the group opposed to Pelosi are also open to a deal allowing for new leadership elections in December 2019.

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