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Pelosi: Democrats ‘Open’ to Helping GOP Elect Speaker

Pelosi and the Democrats forced Republicans to retreat Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Pelosi and the Democrats forced Republicans to retreat Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signaled Saturday there could be “an openness” among at least some House Democrats to voting for a Republican speaker on the floor — and she suggested the GOP turmoil could help put Democrats back in charge come 2017.  

“I think in our caucus there is interest and support. There’s an openness to a bipartisan approach to this,” Pelosi said in an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival.  

Pelosi stopped short of endorsing by name any particular Republican for speaker.  

“Do you want him to be totally destroyed in his caucus if I mentioned who I thought would be good?” Pelosi said when asked by the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston about the prospects of her casting a vote for a Republican speaker. “That would be the end of him.”  

Pelosi also indicated that her caucus would have thwarted a bid by House conservatives to oust Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, should they have brought up a motion to “vacate the chair.”  

Boehner’s eventual announcement of his intent to resign at the end of October rendered those discussions moot, but until that point, members of the House Freedom Caucus were counting on Democrats voting “present,” or even in favor of Pelosi, as a way of keeping Boehner from getting the 218 votes he needed to keep his gavel.  

As conservatives drew nearer to forcing the crucial vote on the House floor, Democrats stayed silent on what their strategy would be — whether they would help protect Boehner from an insurrection or sit back and watch the Republican Conference implode. Pelosi’s statement Saturday was the first indication of what Democrats might have done in that situation.  

“That’s up to them who to make their decision as to how they go forward. I don’t think there was any question in anybody’s mind that if they took a vote to unseat the speaker that the House Democrats would not have let that happen,” Pelosi said. “But, we didn’t get that chance because he stepped aside.”  

Were a power-sharing coalition to emerge in the House in Washington — similar to the arrangement in the Texas Legislature, where a more moderate Republican relies on Democratic votes to be speaker — Pelosi talked about what she would want in exchange for votes from her members.  

“Comprehensive immigration reform, background checks … for gun safety, a civil rights bill. You know, I have a few things that I might be interested in,” Pelosi said. “In addition to the full faith and credit of the United States of America, a transportation bill … keeping government open.”  

“I mean, my price isn’t too high,” she said, though immigration overhaul legislation, a bill to strengthen gun laws and a revision to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are tall orders for Republicans from deeply red districts who would likely face conservative backlash.  

As for the political situation looking at the 2016 map, Pelosi said there was at least a possibility of a Democratic wave, though she declined to say she would be elected speaker in such a scenario.  

“I think the Democrats could have the gavel in 18 months,” she said. “Here’s the thing: I’m always optimistic. You have to be.”  

“Even some pollsters are saying to us, ‘I see a prospect of a wave.’ Now, I think right now, today, you won’t tell anybody I said this: I see probably easily winning half the seats — maybe two-thirds — with what we have in place,” Pelosi said. “I don’t count sheep at night.”  

Instead, after prayers for less fortunate children, she said she counts House seats.  

“Just on the one district at a time, I feel pretty good about where we are on a path, but that doesn’t take into account any lift that we could get apart from our mano-a-mano, one district at a time,” Pelosi said.  

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

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