The internal wrangling in the parties over who will lead House lawmakers next year shifted dramatically Tuesday to the Democratic side, as party members delayed a vote on whether to keep Nancy Pelosi as minority leader — while Republicans nominated Paul Ryan for a second term as speaker with little drama.
House Republicans chose to keep Ryan as the leader of the GOP-controlled chamber, after rumbling in recent weeks that his leadership position could be in jeopardy.
However, after Donald Trump upset Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the White House race last week, and Republicans held onto their majorities in Congress, opposition to Ryan melted away.
Sources said Ryan, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., were all “unopposed” and re-elected on Tuesday.
Rather, House Democrats are the ones who are restive following their stinging defeats last week, calling into question Pelosi’s longtime position as their leader.
Pelosi, a dynamo fundraiser who has been the top House Democrat for years, had predicted her party would retake the House but won only a handful of the roughly 30 seats needed.
House Democrats publicly insisted Tuesday that delaying the voting — from Thursday to Nov. 30 — is not necessarily a signal of a leadership change.
But they made clear the move was indeed over concerns about the future of their party.
Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., said his party was going to take the extra time to “talk about where we go as a party.”
“We need to decide where we want to fight President-elect Trump and where we want to compromise,” said Boyle, whose home state last week voted for a Republican presidential nominee for the first time since 1988.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said the decision to delay came “after considerable discussion” and was a result of his party getting a “shellacking” and the need to “recalibrate.”
Butterfield and Boyle each said they intend to vote for Pelosi but made clear that the party has lost touch with its working-class electorate, which feels desperately left behind in the new economy.
Meanwhile, other House Democrats privately made clear the delayed vote was an indication that rank-and-file members are considering a new direction.
“If I were on the side of the road, that’s how I’d look at it,” said a Capitol Hill Democratic source who also argued congressional Republicans consistently raise less money than congressional Democrats but still hold historic House majorities.
The full House vote for speaker is scheduled for January.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus has been a critic of Ryan’s leadership since took over in fall 2015. The Wisconsin lawmaker’s political future was further called into question when he distanced himself from Trump in late-October, after the release of a 2005 audiotape in which Trump is heard making lewd comments regarding women.
However, any effort to oust Ryan appeared damped Sunday when Ryan’s Wisconsin hometown friend and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was tapped to be Trump’s White House chief of staff — and after Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of the Freedom caucus, said Monday he’d back Ryan for the post.