Can the anti-Pelosi faction change the US House? History lessons for House Democrats.Breaking News
tags: Nancy Pelosi
As Nancy Pelosi awaits the final seat count from a successful midterm surge, she has pivoted to her next battle, retaking the House speakership that she won in 2007 to become the first female speaker in House history, then lost in 2011. Pelosi remained party leader in 2016 by defeating Tim Ryan (OH), but the 134-63 caucus electionrevealed a surprisingly high level of opposition.
This time around, several 2018 Democratic candidates made campaign promisesto vote against her, and 17 Democratshave pledged not to vote for her as speaker, but it is not clear who will run against her.
If the rebels cannot really remove Pelosi, then why embark on this futile campaign? We think they can get two things: more power in the House through rule changes and, possibly, the departure of Pelosi in the near future. That’s exactly what happened after the 1922 election, the last time that electing the speaker required more than one ballot.
A century ago, in a mirror image of today, the 1918 elections brought the Republicans back to power after eight years out. Notably, the triumphant GOP caucus then chose to swap leaders, dumping James Mann (IL) in favor of Frederick Gillett (MA) by a 138-69 vote. Gillett won the House speakership election on the first roll call in May 1919. In the 1920 elections, Republicans Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge demolished the Democratic ticket, winning 60 percent of the popular vote. On those coattails, the party’s advantage in the US House grew dramatically, and the 302 Republicans unanimously reelected Gillett as speaker.
The 1922 midterm saw Democrats claw back many seats, leaving only a slight 225-207-3 Republican advantage. As the first session of the 68th Congress neared, a faction of progressive members saw the slim Republican majority as a chance to take a stand against the regular Republicans led by Gillett. The rebels first acted in the caucus vote: Gillett was selected to be the Republican candidate for speaker with 190 votes, but 24 votes scattered to three other candidates. The caucus results showed that rebels could not defeat Gillett but could prevent his election, and they persisted in their revolt, denying him a majority through the first eight House roll calls to select a speaker.
The ninth, conclusive vote was preceded by an announcement by John Nelson (WI) of conditions mutually agreed to in order to get the Republican rebels on board with returning Gillett to power. These amounted to agreement, from Majority Leader Nicholas Longworth, to permit an open-rule process of revising the House rules, within 30 days. The critical changes concerned empowering members to discharge bills from committees. We believe that the replacement of Speaker Gillett was also on the minds of both the rebels and the chief leadership negotiator, who would quickly turn out to be Gillett’s successor.
Can the rebel Democrats of the 21st century obtain some similar outcome?