House Democrats mull Pelosi leadership future
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U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) (L) walk out with House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., after their sit-in over gun-control law, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
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By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed on Tuesday to postpone the party's leadership elections until Nov. 30 amid discontent among some rank-and-file Democrats over her leadership style, according to sources familiar with closed-door discussions.
Democrats in the House of Representatives now are scheduled to vote on Nov. 30 on whether to renew Pelosi's long-held position as Democratic leader for another two years. Other Democratic house leadership jobs also will be up for a vote.
No other Democrat has come forward to challenge Pelosi, although at least one is weighing what likely would be an uphill bid to dethrone the liberal California Democrat.
House Democrats gathered behind closed doors to assess what went wrong in the Nov. 8 elections that swept Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump into power and allowed Republicans to retain their majorities in both houses, although slightly smaller ones than in the past two years.
One senior House Democratic aide described Tuesday's meeting as being unusually contentious as members grappled with how the Democratic Party should rebuild following last week's election losses, with some wanting new blood in leadership.
"After every single election cycle, she (Pelosi) says things are going to change” in how she interacts with the caucus, the aide said characterizing lawmakers' concerns. "But then, she doesn’t do anything different. It’s the same inside circle” surrounding her.
Democratic aides and a lawmaker said Pelosi made the announcement on the new date for party elections "after protracted discussion" in the meeting. The elections had been expected to take place on Thursday in preparation for Congress convening on Jan. 3.
"We've been through hell," Pelosi told lawmakers, according to a Democratic aide who was in the room but spoke on condition of anonymity. "And it’s only going to get worse as he (Trump) makes his appointments and we have this fight. But we have to see it as an opportunity."
Pelosi, who has been the House Democrats' leader for 14 years and speaker of the House part of that time, said she did not care when the election was.
"I do care that we have the strongest possible leadership at the table, whoever that may be," she said.
Representative Seth Moulton and other Democrats dismayed by the national election results had urged Pelosi to postpone the leadership vote.
"As we begin the 115th Congress, House Democrats must take the time to reflect on the message the American people sent us last Tuesday," Moulton said in a statement after the caucus.
"Delaying the vote on leadership positions is the necessary first step to have that conversation," he said. "The American people cried out last week and we've got to listen."
Representative Tim Ryan, 43, is weighing a run against Pelosi, 76, Ryan’s spokesman Michael Zetts said on Monday.
“He is concerned that if changes aren’t made we will be in the political wilderness for many years to come,” Zetts said. Ryan has been in the House since 2003.
A Democratic lawmaker who declined to be named said Ryan would represent a new generation.
"I think a lot of us feel the landscape has changed," he said. "We need people who can learn new tricks and not do things the way they have been done that last 20 or 30 years."
But Representative Steve Israel, a member of House Democratic leadership and who is retiring from Congress at year's end, said: "There is nobody who could have led House Democrats who would have had a different outcome" in last week's presidential and congressional elections.
"This was not about Nancy Pelosi," Israel told MSNBC. "This was about a national Democratic strategy and message that simply did not tap into the unprecedented anxieties of middle-class voters."
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)
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