President Donald Trump waded into the Democratic House leadership battle again Saturday morning, throwing his weight behind the woman he’s spent the last few months demonizing: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Trump tweeted that he could get the longtime leader of the Democratic caucus “as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House” — a position that requires the votes of the majority of House members, not the majority of the party.
Democrats, set to take over the House for the first time in eight years after the midterm elections swept in a “blue wave,” are in the midst of deciding what they want to do with the majority and who they want to lead it. No other Democrat has officially announced a bid for the speakership, but a vocal group of anti-Pelosi members are agitating for a change.
Trump claimed that Pelosi had “earned” the victory, and that people in the Democratic Party were trying to take it away from her. He also tagged Republican Rep. Tom Reed, co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, who has said that he might be willing to vote for Pelosi in exchange for rules reform.
I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House. She deserves this victory, she has earned it – but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away. She will win! @TomReedCongress
This followed up on a sentiment from a November 7 tweet, in which Trump — who had spent the previous few months on the campaign trail calling Pelosi an “MS-13 Lover” and “High Tax, High Crime Nancy Pelosi” — claimed that she “deserved” the speakership.
Responding to Trump’s earlier tweet, Pelosi told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt that “I don’t think anybody deserves anything. It’s about what you have done, it’s about what you can do. What you have done in the past speaks to your credentials, but it’s about what you can do, and I think I’m the best person to go forward — to unify, to negotiate.”
Trump is wading into a speakership battle that is causing headaches for the Democratic Party
Though she has led the caucus for nearly 16 years, Pelosi has struggled to secure the necessary votes to continue doing so, with a small wing of her party planning to oppose her in the January 3 floor vote and calling for a challenger. They may now have one, with a potential challenge from Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge, a six-term Congress member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Fudge has said that she will reach a decision about running after Thanksgiving.
Although much was made of newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking to climate change protesters outside Pelosi’s office on Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez is not among those planning to vote against Pelosi. As Vox’s David Roberts notes, the pair are likely working together on this.
But divisions do exist among the party. And by involving himself in the leadership race, Trump may be trying to exacerbate them — either tainting Pelosi by association, or genuinely favoring her in the role if it will keep the left divided and Republicans riled up. Knowing Trump, it could also just be that he wants Pelosi to “owe” him politically, or wants to take credit for her victory (Reed had already expressed interested in voting for Pelosi without Trump’s influence).