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Pelosi Likely To Be Next Speaker After Rep. Fudge Drops Challenge


A lot of folks are spending this week preparing for or maybe dreading a big family gathering. For some families, that will mean a little bit of drama. And House Democrats - well, they're doing the same thing. Sixteen Democrats have been waging an insurrection to oust leader Nancy Pelosi. One of them, Tim Ryan of Ohio, described it this way.


TIM RYAN: We need to start having a family conversation about what direction we move in.

MARTIN: Last night, though, Nancy Pelosi seemed to knock out at least one of the competitors for her job. NPR's Kelsey Snell has been following all of this family drama and joins us in the studio. Hey, Kelsey.


MARTIN: So Nancy Pelosi's main competitor for the job of speaker basically removed her name from consideration yesterday, right?

SNELL: Yeah. Fudge came out - Marcia Fudge, who was rumored to be challenging Nancy Pelosi, came out and said that she wasn't going to be doing that. Now Marcia Fudge is a congresswoman from Ohio, and most people probably hadn't heard of her until last week when she kind of went from being an "SNL" parody as a person who's challenging Nancy Pelosi and kind of got elevated to this national stage. And then Nancy Pelosi offered her a job chairing a - reviving a committee on elections, basically a subcommittee underneath of another committee to, you know, walk away and get in Pelosi's camp.

MARTIN: Interesting. So it was enough of a leadership position that Marcia Fudge decided it wasn't worth it to challenge Nancy Pelosi.

SNELL: Well, Marcia Fudge said that it was a really important job and that elections really needed to be paid attention to. But this is part of what Nancy Pelosi does. And then she did it again later on in the evening. She creates new positions to empower new people. She did this the last time that her job was up for challenge. And at the time, she create - you know, creates these new jobs. People who are already in leadership kind of complain that it makes it a little bit of a less exclusive place to be in House Democratic leadership. But the people who get let in get to feel a little bit more important.

MARTIN: So does this mean that Nancy Pelosi is safe at this point, or are there other names being bandied about?

SNELL: Well, there are no other names being bandied about, but there are still the people - those 16 people on the letter. Remember; Marcia Fudge didn't actually sign on to this big insurrection letter. Her name was just floated as somebody who could maybe replace Pelosi, another potential person. That doesn't mean that Pelosi's safe, but she's getting safer. And it really indicates the way that she's going to go about making herself more insulated from threats is to offer people more power.

MARTIN: I want to play some tape from Congressman Seth Moulton, who was really out in front of this whole anti-Pelosi campaign. Let's listen to this.


SETH MOULTON: The majority of Americans want this change. The majority of Democrats want this change. Yes, yes, they do.


MARTIN: People booing him. What does this mean now for Seth Moulton and the other Democrats who were so convinced that Nancy Pelosi was going to go?

SNELL: Well, that was him at a town hall in his home state of Massachusetts. And people clearly did not necessarily agree with him that that's the case. A lot of the criticism here is that there isn't somebody to step in who has leadership experience like Pelosi had. And Pelosi has a track record, right? She got through the Affordable Care Act. She stepped in during the financial bailout. And she has been a proven legislator. What it means for these people, we don't know yet because, again, as much as Pelosi controls who gets to be on the good committee, she also gets to control who gets to be on the committees that people don't want to be on.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Who gets to be in the dog house. She also got high-profile support - right? - Barack Obama.

SNELL: Yeah, absolutely. So President Obama was on David Axelrod's podcast and gave this big singing endorsement of Pelosi. This is what he said.


BARACK OBAMA: I think Nancy Pelosi, when the history is written, will go down as one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country has ever seen.

SNELL: And more than 30 advocacy groups have come out, including labor groups and the group Invisible and MoveOn, these big progressive organizations, have come out in support of Pelosi in the past few weeks.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Kelsey Snell for us. Thanks so much, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.
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