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Sources: Pelosi Calls Caucus Unrest ‘Minor Irritant’

Updated: 4:27 p.m.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted in a meeting Monday with her top lieutenants that unhappiness with her leadership is not widely felt and called it “a minor irritant,” according to several sources with knowledge of the session.

Pelosi’s office denied that the California Democrat made the remarks, calling them “totally false.” But the Democratic sources said Pelosi, who is running for Minority Leader in Wednesday’s leadership elections, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), who co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, were dismissive of any internal unrest within the Caucus following Democrats’ losses on Nov. 2.

“It was like the election didn’t happen,” one senior Democratic aide said. Pelosi “thinks everything is going to be hunky-dory.”

DeLauro, a top Pelosi ally, referred to the Speaker’s critics as “mischief makers,” the aide said. DeLauro said that because those Members couldn’t block Pelosi from becoming Minority Leader, they are instead targeting her and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who co-chair the Steering and Policy Committee.

DeLauro and Miller have both stayed in their posts beyond term limits prescribed by Caucus rules, and some Democrats have talked about trying to force them out.

This aide said, meanwhile, that Pelosi’s plan is to hold leadership elections first, and then deal with Caucus rules changes, when she will be in a position to exact retribution against people who step out of line.

Another Democratic aide gave a different account of the meeting. The aide said Pelosi told those present “that she spoke with the vast majority of the Caucus and many members had constructive ideas about how to move forward.”

A handful of moderate Democrats have said they will not support Pelosi for Minority Leader and roughly two dozen others said before the election that they would prefer a more centrist leader. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said Sunday that he would run against Pelosi even though he acknowledged he can’t beat her.

Pelosi, a liberal, is an unpopular and polarizing figure whom Republicans sought to link to vulnerable Democrats in the runup to the midterms.

Another senior Democratic aide familiar with Monday’s leadership meeting said concerns about Pelosi running for Minority Leader have not waned.

“There’s a large group of people who are still scratching their heads, saying, ‘Why is she doing this?’” the aide said.

Meanwhile, Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) are pressing ahead with their campaign to delay Wednesday’s leadership elections until December. They plan to urge Members returning to the Capitol on Monday night to sign on to a letter to Democratic leaders calling for the delay. Sixteen Democrats had signed on to the letter as of Monday afternoon, according to Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought.

Fought noted that after House Democrats “took a thumping in 1994,” they did not hold leadership elections until Nov. 30. He said Members need time to reflect and “piece things together” after the election.

“First we need a strategy,” Fought said. “Then we need a leadership team to execute that strategy. Things are in reverse right now.”