WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Nancy Pelosi was expected on Wednesday to become the Democratic nominee for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, giving her the inside track to reclaim the House’s top job in January, unless critics in her own party block her.
The 78-year-old San Francisco liberal, a frequent target of Republicans on the campaign trail, faces a small faction of Democrats who are refusing to back her for the post in which she made history from 2007 to 2011 as the first woman speaker.
Maneuvering to win over her opponents, Pelosi was set to meet on Tuesday with Democratic members of a bipartisan group known as the “Problem Solvers Caucus.” They want her to back reforms in how the House operates.
With a record of achievement, including passage of 2010’s Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, Pelosi, currently the House Democratic leader, argues she is still best qualified to be speaker, rejecting critics’ demands for new, younger leadership.
No one has stepped forward to directly challenge her in Wednesday’s closed-door party election. If she wins, she will become the party’s nominee to be speaker for 2019-2020.
“Nancy Pelosi is basically guaranteed to be endorsed by the House Democratic Caucus to be speaker. ... We expect her to be elected speaker in January,” Cowen Washington Research Group analyst Chris Krueger said in a research note.
Some Democrats are trying to set conditions on their support for her. In the election in January, she will need a majority of those casting ballots for a candidate in the whole, 435-member House, with both parties voting publicly.
Voters in the Nov. 6 congressional elections took away the Republicans’ House majority and handed it to the Democrats in a contest widely seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump. His fellow Republicans added to their majority in the Senate.
Nine Democratic “Problem Solvers” urged Pelosi on Monday to publicly support three rule changes they said would “help break the gridlock and pass meaningful legislation to fix health care, immigration and infrastructure.”
A senior Democratic aide said House Democratic leaders had embraced some of the proposals - such as promising timely votes on bills with the backing of three-fifths of the House.
An additional 16 Democrats signed a letter last week saying they believed “the time has come for new leadership in our caucus.” At least one of the 16, Representative Brian Higgins, has since changed his mind and announced he will support Pelosi.
Recently elected Representative Ayanna Pressley, whose position had been unclear, said on Monday she backed Pelosi. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)