Pelosi Secures Votes To Become Speaker Again

[ Posted Thursday, December 13th, 2018 – 18:28 UTC ]

Barring any last-minute plot twists or other surprises, Nancy Pelosi is going to be the next speaker of the House and reclaim the gavel she had to give up eight years ago. She has now secured a clear majority of votes from the total incoming House, meaning it doesn't even matter now whether Democrats who aren't voting for her vote for someone else or just vote "present." This no longer matters, because Pelosi now has the votes to become speaker no matter how the rebels vote.

Pelosi has been wheeling and dealing behind the scenes ever since Election Day to get to this point, and she just cut the final deal which secured her the winning votes. This deal is a watered-down version of term limits for Democratic House leaders, and it seems to limit Pelosi to stepping down -- at the latest -- after the 2022 midterm election. So she has avoided becoming an instant lame duck (as her detractors would have called her if she had agreed to step down after the 2020 elections) while at the same time guaranteeing that her speakership will indeed be (as she has promised) "transitional" to a new eventual Democratic leader. By doing so, she convinced a handful of the remaining Democratic holdouts to vote for her, which puts her over the majority needed to become speaker.

I call the deal Pelosi just struck "watered-down" because it falls short of actual term limits for all of the House's leaders. Republicans instituted term limits for their committee chairmanships, which has led to a slow churn among these chairs. This allows newcomers a shot at powerful positions of leadership, for better or worse. Pelosi's deal does not do this at all -- committee chairmanships will remain bastions of seniority on the Democratic side, rather than be shuffled on a set schedule. Instead, only the very top leadership positions in the House will be affected by the new term limits. The strongest part about the deal is that the limits will apply retroactively, meaning the clock won't start for Pelosi and her top leaders now -- the clock will instead count from when they rose to their leadership positions. This is why Pelosi will be limited to, at most, two more two-year terms as speaker.

Apparently, this was enough to satisfy the Democratic rebels. Pelosi narrowed the term limits down to just her and her top lieutenants, which is indeed where most of the complaints about needing new blood have focused on. But I have to wonder whether the stronger Republican term limits on committee chairs would have been an even better step to take. Pelosi is guaranteeing turnover at the top, but not in the middle ranks of leadership where newcomers could be trained and gain valuable leadership experience. That seems a little short-sighted, but I suppose it is understandable, because going whole-hog for committee chair term limits might have sparked an open revolt among many other Democratic factions (the Congressional Black Caucus, most prominent among them).

Whatever deals Pelosi had to cut to get to this point, I for one will welcome seeing her return to the speaker's chair. Pelosi knows how to get things done -- that's the bottom line for me. She is the most competent speaker in a long while, and the Republicans who have held the job since she had to step down absolutely pale in comparison to Pelosi. The new House will be setting the tone for the entire Democratic Party starting next year, and Pelosi is well up to that task. Pelosi will lead House Democrats in two significant ways, legislatively and investigatively (Editor's note: Is that even a word? Oh, well...). Let's start by examining the latter one first.

Up until now, the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has sucked all the media oxygen from the room. However, it is important to note that this is not due to Mueller himself (who has run a remarkably leak-free investigation), but rather due to an absence of any other investigations to focus on. Republicans in the House and (to a lesser degree) the Senate have absolutely abdicated their oversight responsibilities when it comes to the Trump administration, choosing instead to be active participants in covering up any possible wrongdoing by Trump or those around him. That's all about to change, though, in a big way.

Russia's involvement with the 2016 election and Trump's possible obstruction of justice thereafter certainly aren't the only things worth investigating. But until now, they're all the media has had to talk about. But come January, each House committee with oversight responsibilities is going to start digging into all the other scandals and corruption from the Trump administration. And there's a big difference in House investigations and the Mueller investigation, because most of what the House committees do is going to be done in public view. Hearings will be called, evidence will be obtained, and all the dirty laundry is going to wind up in the next day's newspapers. And there are so many scandals to choose from -- that have nothing whatsoever to do with Russia -- that it'll be akin to Democrats shooting fish in a barrel. If Democrats are smart, they'll just leave the Russia/obstruction investigating to Mueller and focus on the countless other Trump scandals instead. There is certainly no shortage of them, that's for sure!

The media is trying valiantly to put the impeachment cart before the horse, but Democrats so far show no inclination to be prematurely goaded into this step. Digging through Trump's dirt is going to happen first, before any prominent congressional Democrats start seriously considering articles of impeachment. And, again, there is so much dirt to dig through that it's likely going to take a while to even get a clear picture of all the dirty deeds Trump and his administration have been up to. It won't so much be "Democrats dig" as a major excavation involving large earth-moving machines. So look for this investigative phase to go on for many months to come, with revelations and must-see witnesses and hearings galore.

Legislatively, Pelosi will have to show the voters exactly what Democrats stand for and exactly what direction they would like to take the country. Pelosi and the House Democrats are going to construct the 2020 Democratic platform, one bill at a time.

Pelosi is well up to this task. All you have to do is look back at how she ran the House the last time she was in control. It wasn't the House where good Democratic agenda items went to die -- it was the Senate, where "Blue Dog" Democrats had the most influence. Pelosi passed bill after bill that Harry Reid just ignored, many of which contained very popular ideas that Democrats were proud to support. It's a shame more of them didn't make it onto Barack Obama's desk, in fact.

This time around, House bills will fall into two main categories: those that have a chance of becoming law, and those that don't. 'Twas ever thus, though, even with Democratic control of the Senate. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be more bills that could actually become law than you might now think.

Republicans in the House will be all but irrelevant in this process, of course. But Republicans in the Senate will be either the ones who block bills or decide to pass them. And some of these Republicans are well aware of what happened in the 2018 election cycle. Republican House members across the country were voted out of office because Democrats had positive things to run on while Republicans had little to show for their time in power. True, Republicans picked up two seats in the Senate, but that was with the most favorable Senate map for them since F.D.R.'s time. Next time around, the map won't be so favorable for them, and quite a few of them might be vulnerable. The only way they may be able to avoid getting defeated is to work with Democrats to get some things done. This pressure will be mostly in the background, but it will exist.

Nancy Pelosi is smart enough to begin sending Mitch McConnell bills on issues that poll extremely well among the general public. People in Washington tend to see things on the "left-right" scale, and are way too quick to label any particular agenda item "far-left." What Bernie Sanders has already proved is that ideas which might now be seen as fringe-lefty fantasies are actually quite popular among the general public. Raising the minimum wage, for instance, polls overwhelmingly well, even in the reddest of states. Voters tend not to look at these things as "left-right," but rather in the context of: "Will this help me and my family lead a better life?" And there are a lot of items on the Democrats' agenda that get a resounding "Yes!" to that question. Pelosi will be proving this, in her first few months in office.

Republicans will then have a choice: either get on board (and try to pretend it was your idea in the first place), or fight and obstruct and run the risk of the issue being used as a political sledgehammer against you in 2020. In 2018, the sole issue of healthcare was used as a potent political weapon against all those Republicans who voted to repeal Obamacare without ever offering up any reasonable replacement. But healthcare is not the only issue which can be utilized by Democrats just as effectively.

So that's what I am anticipating from Nancy Pelosi's House. Investigations of all things Trump that resemble a major archeological dig, which will provide story after story of corruption and malfeasance on (hopefully) a weekly basis. And legislation moving forward that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Democrats have a bold agenda and some great ideas that voters overwhelmingly want to see enacted. Whether these bills become law or not, it will be quite obvious to all which party they are coming from.

Republicans have largely squandered the past two years in control of both Congress and the White House. They passed a tax cut to benefit the ultra-wealthy, but they haven't managed to do much of anything else. And that was when they were in control of everything, mind you. So I'm not expecting that Mitch McConnell's Senate or Donald Trump's White House will suddenly be coming up with any sort of bold conservative agenda to counteract what Nancy Pelosi's about to do. Pelosi -- not Trump or McConnell -- will be setting the legislative pace and driving the political agenda in Washington. Republicans may successfully obstruct most of this agenda, but then they'll have to answer for it at the polls in 2020. Voters will see a clear contrast between a party with a vision for the future and a party with no agenda beyond helping wealthy folks and Wall Street. We've seen how pathetic both Paul Ryan and John Boehner were as speaker of the House, when they couldn't even get the votes from their own party to do much of anything at all. Nancy Pelosi is not going to be such a speaker. She's already proven that she can do better than that, and she's about to begin proving it again, come January.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


19 Comments on “Pelosi Secures Votes To Become Speaker Again”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    Nancy's brilliant maneuvering in the face of Seth Moulton and gang's efforts served to illustrate how skilled she is.

  2. [2] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    I am hoping that we will soon be calling Pelosi, “Madame President” as she would be the person to take the office if Trump and Pence’s victory is considered “fruits of the poisonous tree” of their criminal actions committed to influence the election.

    Hey.... let a guy dream, won’t ‘cha?!?!

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i wonder how hillary clinton would feel about nancy pelosi becoming the first female president of the united states.

    you'd do better if you demanded pie.


    i agree that it's a good deal for the time being. also agree that limiting terms on committee chairs may be a bridge too far this time around, but is a good thing to keep in mind for the future. by the way, shame on you for not supporting pie.


  4. [4] 
    Paula wrote:

    [4] JL:

    i wonder how hillary clinton would feel about nancy pelosi becoming the first female president of the united states.

    You know, I think HRC would laugh and laugh and laugh. I think she'd be pleased - the irony would be so profound as, next to Hillary herself, Nancy Pelosi is the most-hysterically-demonized-by-the-GOP Democrat out there (although AOC is the new runner-up).

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    it wouldn't surprise me if that were hillary's reaction. but it also wouldn't surprise me if she got really bitter about one of her political contemporaries getting there when she didn't. or possibly both at the same time.


  6. [6] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Clinton would be all smiles in that event, it would mean Trump and Chump would have faced their comeuppance.


  7. [7] 
    Paula wrote:

    This point bears repeating - in addition to National Enquirer/AMI suppressing stories that might hurt DT, they simultaneously ran slews of anti-HRC stories:

    Only AMI and prosecutors know what that might entail, but it’s clear that Pecker’s assistance to Trump did not end with the catch-and-kill, or even with the outlandish Cruz story. As Quartz’s Heather Timmons documented a few months ago, the National Enquirer and its sister publication the Globe ran 35 covers with anti–Hillary Clinton stories. It’s worth considering whether these stories helped decide the outcome of the election.

    The anti-Clinton stories ran the gamut from the false but vaguely plausible (“Hillary Failed Secret FBI Lie Detector!”) to workaday, equally bogus conspiracy theories (“Hillary: Six Months to Live!”) to the completely batty (“Hillary Gains 103 Lbs!” as though the public wouldn’t notice if that had happened, and “Hillary Hitman Tells All.”)

  8. [8] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Concern over whether voters allowed their voting to be informed by the likes of National Enquirer articles constitutes a helluve strong case against universal sufferage!

  9. [9] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    C.R.S.[9]: No, that's the wrong way to see it. That's the way they'd like you to see it. The way to see it is, this is what we fight for: freedom of speech. No matter how much we hate the Enquirer, and all that it stands for, we hate pre-censorship more. We just have to go with it, to even stand up to it, to still have those little corners of truth.

    Sucks, doesn't it?

  10. [10] 
    Paula wrote:

    [10] Balthasar: Yep!

    Wow, here's a story I'd missed -

    In fact, the Michael Lewis book The Fifth Risk recounts some of Christie's transition efforts in 2016 before Trump won the election—and then literally and figuratively trashed every shred of work Christie had done. Keep in mind that party nominees are legally required to form transition teams. Trump didn't want one but Christie explained he must have one and he could either pay for it himself or pull from campaign funds. Trump refused to do either, so Christie was forced to fundraise for the committee in order to pay its hundred-plus staffers. Trump almost entirely ignored the transition work until he read an article reporting that Christie had raised several million dollars toward the effort. That's when Steven Bannon walked into Trump's Trump Tower residence to find Christie getting an earful from Trump. Lewis writes:

    Trump was apoplectic, actually yelling, You're stealing my money! You're stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?? Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed, Why are you letting him steal my fucking money? Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump federal law. [...] To which Trump replied, Fuck the law. I don't give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Bannon and Christie tried to explain that Trump couldn't have both his money and a transition.

    Shut it down, said Trump. Shut down the transition.
    Christie didn't shut it down.

    They temporarily convinced Trump that cable shows like Morning Joe would have a field day with Trump if he didn’t have a transition team in place—it would signal that he was already conceding defeat. But once Trump won the election he effectively fired Christie (actually, he made Bannon do it), fired the entire transition staff, and installed Mike Pence, who started over from scratch—or at least from a list of people for whom the Trumps wanted to do personal favors.


  11. [11] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthy [10]

    You seem to have misunderstood. I'm not in favor of any kind of censorship. I couldn't care less what morons publish.

    My point is that believing what they publish should constitute de-facto evidence of mental impairment, and disquality the person from having the right to vote.

  12. [12] 
    Paula wrote:

    More stuff of interest - Vox has a piece up:
    Exclusive: Paul Manafort advised White House on how to attack and discredit investigation of President Trump

    We now have details as to how the indicted former campaign manager worked with the president to undermine federal law enforcement.

    Manfort advised Blotus to: attack the FBI, attack the DNC, attack HRC & the Steele Dossier.

  13. [13] 
    Paula wrote:
  14. [14] 
    TheStig wrote:


    The popular vote got it right, the Electoral College got it wrong...the very agent that was supposed to protect us from the ignorant masses fell flat on its ass. Same with your rhetorical flourish. Who died and made you an aristocrat?

  15. [15] 
    Paula wrote:

    So a "conservative-lunatic" Judge in TX declares the ACA unconstitutional. Good times ahead. Hope it absolutely solidifies the growing understanding by more and more Americans that GOP/Conservatives need to be driven out of power everywhere. I've been warning people for years that the GOP was going down a bad, bad road but for so long people were in denial. It sucks to be a Cassandra - you see it coming but can't prevent it.

    There will be appeals, etc. so all is not lost yet.

  16. [16] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "For better or worse"....

    Term limits sound good but when implemented don't seem to improve the quality of representatives or make voters happier. If anything, the era of term limits hss made everbody crankier and more crooked. The possibility of snap recall elections might work out better, but killing the gerrymander seems to me the reform most likely revitalize American politics. Ohio has dipped it's toes into this reform, but the implentation is clunky and will be slow to take effect.

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    yeah, that's the direction we've been going for quite awhile.

    y'think einstein walked around thinking everyone was a bunch of dumb shits? now you know why he built that bomb.

  18. [18] 
    Paula wrote:
  19. [19] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Paula [5] -

    Good points all. Just had to say that.

    nypoet22 [6] -

    I think you're both wrong. I think the woman who would be livid with rage would be Dianne Feinstein. SHE has always seen herself as the first woman president, and it would tick her off no end to see a fellow San Franciscan make that leap, I betcha.

    C. R. Stucki [9] -

    I hear what you're saying, but wasn't it the NE that broke the John Edwards story? They have played a major role at times in American politics already.

    I may be remembering it wrong, but I think no other publication would touch the story at the time...

    TheStig [17] -

    I'm of two minds. Yeah, I've seen how term limits can cause bad unintended consequences out here in CA, but on the other hand Willie Brown is no longer in the news. Heh.

    Term limits are a reaction to a perceieved problem. In the Democrats' case (in the House) the problem seems to be real to some extent or another (calicification of leadership due to seniority ruling the day). So I expect we'll go through bouts of it, followed by lengthening of the limits themselves gradually over time, until the cycle begins anew.

    I hilariously remember all the freshmen of the Newt Gingrich era conveniently finding reasons to abandon their term limit campaign pledges, after a few elections...

    Good times. Heh.


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