Pappas, Kuster throw support behind Pelosi for speaker

  • Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., is interviewed at the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., on Jan. 24, 2018. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Geoff Hansen

  • Chris Pappas AP

For the Monitor
Published: 11/26/2018 8:03:34 PM

After saying he was undecided for months, Democrat Chris Pappas announced Tuesday that he’ll back Nancy Pelosi’s bid to regain the speaker’s gavel in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The congressman-elect in the state’s First District revealed his decision a day before the now majority House Democrats will caucus to nominate their candidate for speaker.

“After careful consideration and discussion with many constituents and future colleagues in Congress, I have decided to support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. I believe she is best equipped to lead the House at this point in our history,” Pappas said in a statement.

The move by Pappas came one day after the other Granite Stater who gets to vote for House Speaker – 2nd Congressional District Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster – also announced her support for Pelosi.

As a candidate for Congress, Pappas never joined the rising chorus of other Democratic candidates in the large First District primary field and elsewhere around the country in vowing to oppose Pelosi’s bid for speaker.

Yet he left the door open to supporting someone else.

“I think it’s important that we do get some new voices into leadership that represent the vibrancy of the freshman class,” the 38-year old executive councilor from Manchester told the Monitor two weeks ago.

Yet on the eve of the caucus vote, the 78-year old California lawmaker who’s led the Democrats in the House for 15 years remains the only Democratic contender for the position.

Pappas said he spoke with Pelosi. 

“My conversations with her convinced me she will lead with fairness and empower the incoming class to play a significant role in the work ahead,” he said. “We must get down to doing the people’s business quickly, and we should start by reforming the way Washington works, lowering the cost of health care, and creating an economy that allows everyone to succeed.”

The New Hampshire GOP quickly took to Twitter to criticize Pappas, saying “Nancy Pelosi got exactly what she paid for in #NH01: A Partisan Puppet.” 

The NHGOP was referring to support Pappas received just before Election Day by the House Majority PAC, which is the major outside group that backs House Democrats and Democratic candidates. The PAC, which has ties to Pelosi, spent nearly $700,000 to run a TV ad slamming Pappas’ GOP rival, Eddie Edwards, on the issue of health care.

Since the Democrats won back the House majority in the midterm elections, Pelosi’s been feverishly working behind the scenes to secure enough votes to regain the speakership, which she held from 2007-2011. She was the first and only woman to serve as speaker.

When the House Democrats caucus on Wednesday to nominate their candidate for speaker, all Pelosi needs is a simple majority to win her party’s blessing.

But it gets trickier for Pelosi when the full House votes for speaker.

The Democrats are set to hold 234 seats in the next Congress after flipping 39-GOP held sets. Pelosi will need the support of 218 representatives in the early January floor vote to win the speakership. Assuming that no Republicans back her, the California Democrat can only afford to lose 16 votes from her own caucus.

An effort by Democrats opposed to Pelosi’s bid for speaker, which seemed formidable just a week ago, has lost momentum in recent days, with several of those lawmakers either now backing Pelosi or muting their opposition. 

While some Democrats oppose Pelosi and yearn for a fresher face to wield the gavel, many fear that a rebellion could allow a Republican to become the next speaker. Other Pelosi supporters say it’s appropriate to have a woman lead House Democrats, with nearly 40 percent of the caucus and nearly half of the freshman Democratic class being women.

Kuster, who earlier this month won a fourth two-year term in Congress, had been undecided but was leaning heavily towards backing Pelosi’s bid for speaker. In a statement Monday, the Hopkinton Democrat made it official. 

“Pelosi’s experience will be valuable as we transition to the majority and will pave the way for the success of future leaders of our party,” Kuster said. 

“Nancy Pelosi has demonstrated her ability to shepherd meaningful legislation through the House of Representatives. She has proven her effectiveness as a leader by protecting and strengthening access to healthcare for millions of Americans and I believe that experience is critical as we work to bring down costs and improve quality of care,” Kuster added.

Kuster’s support for Pelosi could pay dividends, as she builds her seniority and moves up the ladder. She currently serves on the Veterans Affairs and Agriculture committees. But she told the Monitor earlier this month that she’s open to new assignments as well, including working on health care policy, energy policy, or the environment.

Pappas said he would like to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, telling the Monitor earlier this month that “New Hampshire gets the least amount of federal highway aid of any state in the country. I think we can do better than that.”

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