Two of the 16 Democratic signers of a letter pledging to vote against Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) as the next speaker of the House have already signaled they will fold on that promise.
Rep. Brian Higgins (D., N.Y.) and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) are backing down after they were two of the 11 sitting congressmen who joined five newly elected members in stating an intention to support "new leadership" in the new Congress, where Democrats will have the majority for the first time in eight years. Pelosi has been the top Democrat in the House since 2003, and she served as speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011.
"As we head toward the 116th Congress and reclaim our Democratic majority, we believe more strongly than ever that the time has come for new leadership," the letter stated.
"Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington," it went on. "We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise."
Higgins said in June he wouldn't support Pelosi to lead the party after the midterms, referring to her as "aloof, frenetic and misguided." However, two days after the letter was released last week, he changed course and said he would support Pelosi, saying she would prioritize his legislative goals regarding infrastructure and a proposal allowing people to buy into Medicare when they turn 50.
"Some will ask why I have changed my position," he said. "The answer is simple: I took a principled stand … A principled stand, however, often requires a pragmatic outlook in order to meet with success."
Lynch told a Boston TV station that he still wanted new leadership, but he would support Pelosi if it was between her and a Republican. Since Rep. Marcia Fudge (D., Ohio) backed off a public flirtation with challenging Pelosi last week, no Democratic alternative to Pelosi has emerged.
While Pelosi is revered in the party for her role in steering the Affordable Care Act and other Obama administration legislative wins through Congress as speaker, she also is nationally unpopular and has been consistently used by Republicans as a figurehead for liberal elitism.
Throughout 2018, she predicted Democrats would win the House and she would again be the speaker. She needs to secure 218 votes for a majority in the 435-seat House.
Not all Democrats who oppose Pelosi for the post signed that letter, however, such as Rep. Conor Lamb (D., Pa.) and newly elected members Jared Golden (Maine), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.).