President Donald Trump on Saturday re-upped his offer to help Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., become House speaker in the next Congress by rallying Republican members to vote for her; this time it’s not so obvious that he’s joking.
Many had assumed Trump was being sarcastic or trolling the House Democratic leader when he tweeted immediately after Democrats secured a House majority in last week’s midterm elections: “Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats. If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes.”
Trump, after all, has vilified Pelosi as much as anyone over the years, warning days before the election that she would abolish borders and impose socialism if her party won and she gained power. Her toxic image on the right side of the political spectrum is part of the reason many Democrats have qualms about making her speaker after the party gained a thin majority in last week’s election.
But the president sounded more serious Saturday when he again made the offer, even going so far as to name Rep. Tom Reed of New York as a Republican who might vote for her.
“I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House,” Trump tweeted. “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!”
Pelosi is trying to rally support ahead of the Democratic caucus vote on Nov. 28. She could come up short in the vote among incoming freshmen to Congress and party holdovers, as many campaigned for the midterms saying they would not support her as the next speaker. This could push the issue to a House floor vote on Jan. 3.
If all House members are present and voting, Pelosi will need 218 votes that day to become the next speaker, a post she lost when Republicans claimed the majority in 2011. Her challenge is Democrats are expected to control the 116th Congress by a margin of about 16 seats, and at least 20 of those Democrats have said they would oppose her, according to a Washington Post analysis. That figure, however, could change, as Pelosi and her allies lobby reluctant party members for their support.
It’s the January vote where Trump might actually be able to help – if he can convince a handful of Republican Congress members to make up for the lost Democrats. At a news media gaggle on Saturday, he sounded seriously willing to do so – whatever his reasons and whatever conditions, he might demand for the help.
“If she needs any votes, if she asks me, I will give her the votes to put her over the top,” Trump told reporters, according to a White House press pool report.
Asked which Republicans would vote for her, Trump again named Reed, who has said he “is open to crossing over.”
“I saw Tom Reed as an example,” Trump said. “I would call him a moderate. . . . But whatever number of votes she needs, if its 50 or 10 or two or one, she’s got them from me, automatic. So tell her opposition, they’re wasting their time.”
Pelosi, however, seems pretty confident she can do it on her own. “Leader Pelosi will win the speakership with Democratic votes,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Avi Selk