House Democrats intent on blocking minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s speakership bid claim they simply need to deny her the requisite 218 votes; they don’t necessarily need to put forward an alternative, as Pelosi and her allies have argued.
“The whole concept of you can’t beat somebody with nobody is a Nancy Pelosi talking point,” Rep. Kathleen Rice (D., N.Y.), who is helping led the opposition, told the Associated Press.
Pelosi and her allies have suggested the opposition to her speakership will ultimately prove fruitless because the 15 lawmakers currently opposed to her have not yet put forward a viable alternative candidate. Rice and her allies, however, believe an alternative will materialize once the caucus realizes Pelosi lacks the votes to win.
“The first step is showing that she cannot get to 218,” Rice told the AP, “and then I believe the challengers will emerge that can allow new members to say, OK, here’s another possibility, now I get it.”
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, who has joined Rice in whipping opposition votes, suggested “a chaotic debate” over who should lead the Democrats’ newly won majority in the House “would be healthy for the party.”
Pelosi has reportedly leaned heavily on her credential as the only female in congressional leadership to counter the insurgent opposition to her speakership. She has also personally reached out to the large class of incoming freshman congressmen to secure their support — an approach that’s reportedly won over at least three previously opposed new members.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — an upstart 28-year-old Democratic-Socialist who many expected to oppose Pelosi in favor of a younger more progressive leader — has said she will back Pelosi due to concerns that the opposition lacks a unified vision and could actually produce more conservative leadership.
“I hope that we can move swiftly to conclude this discussion about party positions, so that we can spend more time discussing party priorities,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a recent tweet.