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Pelosi’s Strategy in Secret Ballot: Allow Her Critics to Let Off Steam

Category: Political News,Politics

After a tense and unproductive meeting on Wednesday with Ms. Pelosi, the three lawmakers who put together the letter opposing her did not appear to have a plan to ensure that they would have the votes to stop her in a floor fight, and were still searching for a candidate willing to directly challenge her.

“We’re not meeting with anybody,” said Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who challenged Ms. Pelosi in 2016 for the minority leader post and garnered 63 votes, almost twice the number who opposed her on Wednesday. “All we’re saying now is everybody needs to vote their district, vote their conscience, and let the chips fall where they may.”

That will not be the approach of Ms. Pelosi, who has been working quietly behind the scenes to court skeptics and opponents by wielding a considerable arsenal of sweeteners, including her ability to dole out committee assignments, to set the legislative agenda to ensure certain policy issues are made priorities, and to select point people for high-profile efforts.

She is cognizant of the fact that many newly elected lawmakers feel that they must oppose her as a matter of political survival, given her demonization by critics as a symbol of runaway liberalism. But she has focused intently on cutting deals with incumbents to bring them over to her side.

Representative Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, an ally of Ms. Pelosi, said Democrats had been toiling to figure out a way to allow those who felt they must oppose Ms. Pelosi for speaker to satisfy that need without leading to a damaging spectacle at the very moment that Democrats assume control of the House for the first time in eight years.

He even floated the idea of scrapping the secret ballot, a tradition in which party caucuses meet behind closed doors to elect their leaders, so that Democrats who had promised to vote against Ms. Pelosi could fulfill their pledge by doing so out loud in front of their colleagues — and then rally to her side during the official vote of the House in January. But Democrats balked at the change.

“We’re all trying to avoid a bloody fight on the floor,” Mr. Connolly said. But he added that Ms. Pelosi’s yes-or-no ballot yielded the same general result, allowing Democrats to cast a protest vote, and even take a picture of it to show constituents.

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