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Pelosi claims she has votes, but race for speaker goes on

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats won the majority. Now they just need a speaker of the House. The standoff about Nancy…

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats won the majority. Now they just need a speaker of the House.

The standoff about Nancy Pelosi’s bid to regain the gavel intensified Friday as Democrats left Washington for the Thanksgiving holiday, an unsettling finish to an otherwise triumphant week that saw them welcome a historic class of Newcomers to Capitol Hill and prepare to take control.

Pelosi was certain that she will be speaker once more, reviving her role as the first woman to wield the gavel.

For now, it’s a band of disgruntled Democrats, led mostly by men, standing against the sweep of nationally-known Pelosi allies. With a test vote in late November, and at least one potential Pelosi challenger stepping forward, Democrats faced the grim prospect of the internal squabble over the Jan. 3 speaker’s vote pulling on for weeks, with no clear end game in sight.

“I think chaos is good if it’s productive. I think chaos is bad if it’s too disruptive and it divides us too much,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., A co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose leaders were upbeat after meeting with Pelosi this week.

“We do not have a lot of time,” Jayapal said. “We need to put forward the vision of who we are fighting for and so that needs to happen very, very quickly. “

Pelosi was expected to work the phones from California after meeting privately Friday with newly- elected Democrats who could be crucial to her pray for House speaker.

The freshmen entering and exiting Pelosi’s stately office off the House floor indicated they had good meetings with the leader, although few said the talks had changed their minds to vote to support her as speaker.

Incoming Rep.-Elect Abigail Spanberger or Virginia said she had a “wonderful conversation” about her district’s priorities, but “will not be voting for leader Pelosi.”

“It’s not about Here, it’s about wanting new leadership, “Spanberger said worms CIA operative who defeated tea party Republican Rep. Dave Brat in suburban Richmond. “There is not anything she could say, because the decision is not about her.”

Another newly-elected Democrat, Rep. Jeff van Drew of New Jersey, said he had a “pleasant” meeting, but remains a noon on Pelosi as speaker. He is among 17 Democrats who have signed on to a letter opposing her. Van Drew said they discussed his districts and which committees he would like to serve on. “I do not feel under pressure,” he said.

In a key session, Pelosi also with for 45 minutes with Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, a potential rival for the speakership who said the two had “a very open and frank discussion,” including about “the feeling in the caucus of people who feel left out and left behind.”

Fudge said she would probably decide after Thanksgiving break if she will run.

“Two credit, she wanted to know what my concerns were,” Fudge said. “What she asked me was basically how we could get to a point where I’m supportive. “

One question for some Democrats is what, exactly, Pelosi means when she says she intends to be a transition leader, a bridge to a new generation. She has led the party for 15 years.

“We talked about some succession planning,” Fudge said. “I think it’s something our caucus is interested in knowing.”

If it was up to most of the Democratic Party, Pelosi would win the speakership in a walk.

Pelosi, 78, made history when she became the first female speaker of the House in 2007. She assumed the post after Democrats took control. of the House in midterm elections during former President George W. Bush’s second term. With President Barack Obama, she was pivotal in passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

She appears to be winning the outside game in her bid, amassing endorsements from a who’s who of the nation’s Democrats. Inside the Capitol she has support from influential lawmakers like Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, and backing from some of the newly-elected freshmen.

On Friday, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence joined the list, as did Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was gravely wounded during a mass shooting in this district, and who once voted against Pelosi for speaker.

“There is no one else who we would trust more,” said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign.

The internal debate is spilling out nationally, especially on social media, where Democratic activists are publicly criticizing rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio and others leading the campaign to oust Pelosi.

A coalition of liberal groups sounded the alarm against an overthrow being orchestrated by mostly centrist Democrats who want to prevent the San Franciscan from being the face of the party.

MoveOn.org noted her work passing the health care law and said “Dems must reject attempt to defeat here and move caucus to the right.”

It’s not lost on supporters that a group made up of mostly but is leading the effort to oust her. On the list of 17 names who have signed a letter against her, just three are women.

“We should not let a small group of white, moderate but sabotage here. We support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House , “Tweeted Indivisible, the group that formed after the 2016 election in opposition to Trump’s agenda and has activists nationwide.

Pelosi has fended off challenges before, but this one poses perhaps the biggest threat yet.

With a narrow Democratic majority, now at 231 seats, she does not have much cushion to secure the 218 votes needed on the floor if all Republicans vote against her, as expected. Some House races remain undecided and the Democratic majority could grow slightly.

There is a chance that the math could shift in Pelosi’s favor if lawmakers are absent or simply vote “present,” meaning she would need less than 218 votes for an absolute majority

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Associated Presswriters Alan Fram, Matthew Daly and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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