Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Opposition to Pelosi Slowly Collapsing
Rep. Brian Higgins' support deals a setback to the group looking to oust the California Democrat.

11/21/2018 03:08 PM EST

Nancy Pelosi picked off another Democratic detractor Wednesday, putting the California Democrat one step closer to regaining the speaker’s gavel as the opposition against her appears to be slowly crumbling.

Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat who has criticized Pelosi for months and vowed repeatedly to vote against her in the new Congress, announced his support for the California Democrat.

"It is likely that Nancy Pelosi is going to be the speaker," Higgins said in an interview explaining his change of mind. "To be truthful about it, not only is there not a viable alternative, right now there’s not an alternative."

The Buffalo News first reported Higgins’ reversal on Pelosi. Just days before, Higgins had signed onto a letter opposing her, and he told POLITICO repeatedly in an interview that he wouldn’t back Pelosi “under any circumstances.”

But Pelosi is winning now, so circumstances apparently have changed enough for Higgins to reconsider his recent fervent opposition to her.

“For years, Congressman Higgins has been an extraordinary leader on the issue of achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans. His Medicare buy-in proposal is central to this debate, as we work to build on the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi said in a statement released shortly after news of Higgins' volte-face.

“We are looking forward to working together to lower the cost of health care for hard-working families and raise their paychecks by building infrastructure of America, which is also an important issue to Congressman Higgins.”

Higgins is the latest Pelosi critic to make a dramatic change in direction. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) announced she was backing Pelosi on Tuesday, just days after openly considering a bid against her, leaving the anti-Pelosi rebels without a challenger.

Higgins was one of 16 current and incoming Democrats who signed a letter Monday promising to vote against Pelosi on the floor. Fudge was on a draft version of that letter but took her name off before it was finalized Monday, according to Democratic sources. A handful of other incoming Democrats have said they will oppose Pelosi for speaker but did not sign onto the letter either.

Securing two significant endorsements from Fudge and Higgins within a day of each other is just the latest example of Pelosi's continued strength inside caucus, despite facing the most credible threat to her leadership to date.

Pelosi has gone about winning her critics over in a most Pelosi-like way. Over the past two weeks, Pelosi and her allies have launched a full-scale assault to round up support and persuade House Democrats to support her through a mix of deal cutting, flattery and arm-twisting when needed.

There's no timetable for more announcements by "flippers," according to sources close to Pelosi, but she has time on her side, and maybe more importantly, momentum. Pelosi looks likes she's winning, which will make it harder for anti-Pelosi Democrats to stand pat. If they want to cut a deal with her, the time to go is sooner rather than later.

Higgins said he will now back Pelosi after she agreed to support two of his key legislative priorities in the new Congress: a major infrastructure package and legislation that lowers the Medicare enrollment age.

For Fudge, the incentives to flip were different. Pelosi cut a deal with Fudge to reinstate a House Administration Committee panel overseeing elections and naming Fudge chairwoman.

Earlier Tuesday, Fudge made headlines after it was disclosed that she had written a letter of support years ago for a former Ohio judge and state lawmaker who is now accused of killing his ex-wife. Even if Fudge had not cut a deal with Pelosi, Fudge's bid for speaker would have likely failed due to controversy.

So far, none of the other 15 signees of the anti-Pelosi letter have changed their positions.

However, Higgins said he's in touch with a few who are considering cutting their own deals with the longtime Democratic leader, and he thinks they would be smart to do so.

"They’re talking about trying to cut their own deal on legislation about them or a committee assignment or whatever, and that’s what this process is all about," Higgins said.

The big question now is whether other Democrats who have said they’ll oppose Pelosi for speaker stand firm in their opposition or relent, clearing her path back to the gavel.

Democrats meet next Wednesday for a closed-door vote for speaker and other leadership positions. Pelosi is expected to easily win the vote, which only requires a majority of the caucus.

The expected victory will give Pelosi and her allies more than a month to try to persuade Democratic opponents to back her on the House floor in January. The House will hold a roll-call vote for the next speaker on Jan. 3.

Even members-elect in swing districts — the Democrats who faced a barrage of GOP TV ads linking them to Pelosi — say they might vote for her.

Rep.-elect Colin Allred is not a member of the never-Pelosi group but said Wednesday he still hasn’t made up his mind how he’ll vote.

“I’m still kind of waiting to see how some of this plays out. Obviously, right now, there’s only one candidate for speaker,” he said after the Higgins’ news broke.

Allred, who knocked off longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions in north Texas, said he’s hoping to use his pull to secure a spot on either the Transportation or Education committees.

“I think it’s important for me to use whatever leverage I have,” Allred said Wednesday. “I’ve met with Leader Pelosi and I’ve made clear what I think is most important for my district.”

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