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14 Democrats Push Back on Raising Caucus Threshold for Speaker Race

Caucus threshold should remain simple majority; members should unite behind winner, they say

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is expected to run for speaker again. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is expected to run for speaker again. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A group of 14 Democrats who support Nancy Pelosi for speaker are pushing back on a proposal from some of their anti-Pelosi colleagues to raise the caucus threshold for nominating a speaker candidate. 

House Democratic Caucus rules make all of their elected leadership positions subject to a simple-majority vote. Then, under House rules, the speaker nominee chosen by the caucus needs to win votes from a majority of the entire chamber — 218, if everyone is present and voting. 

The anti-Pelosi Democrats have proposed raising the caucus threshold to 218 to align with the House rule. The caucus briefly debated the rule change in September, but Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter ultimately withdrew the amendment.

The supporters of the proposal vowed to revisit the issue after the election. Perlmutter wrote a letter last week signed by eight other Democrats requesting a discussion the of rule be placed on the agenda for caucus meetings scheduled for Nov. 14 and 15. 

The Democrats who signed that letter wanting to raise the caucus vote threshold to 218 are: Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts,  Tim Ryan and Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Brian Higgins and Kathleen Rice of New York, Bill Foster of Illinois and Filemon Vela of Texas. 

But on Monday, 14 Democrats wrote a letter arguing against the “extraordinary” rule change.

“It would thus invite small groups of Members to form in order to extract this or that concession — a committee or subcommittee chairmanship, a party office, or a legislative commitment — as the price for not holding up the entire process of legislative governance,” they wrote.  “We should stand by the Rules which have served us well rather than alter our long-standing Rules and court strategic mischief and endless ballots.“     

The 14 signatories were: Reps. Donald S. Beyer Jr. of Virginia, André Carson of Indiana, Val Demings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel of Florida, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, John Garamendi, Jimmy Gomez, Doris Matsui and Eric Swalwell of California, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. 

“Although we all support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, and indeed know of no opponents who have declared against her, we are all strong supporters of an open process and would embrace vigorous debate and contest within our Caucus,” they wrote.  “We encourage any Member who wants to run for Speaker or any other elected position to come forward and make his or her case and we plan to listen with an open mind and an open heart.”

 The 14 Democrats said it was troubling to hear reports of members being urged to repudiate the caucus’s choice before it’s even been made, arguing that Pelosi critics should hear her out. 

They also argued that once the caucus holds its elections and makes its choice for speaker and other leadership positions, all members need to unite behind them.

“Now that we are finally in the Majority, it will be baffling to the public and self-defeating to block the Caucus’ choice on the floor, either through a formal change to the Rules or an informal abandonment of the Caucus,” they wrote.

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