Problem Solvers to Back Pelosi for Speaker After Reaching Agreement on Rules Changes

Move further whittles down California Democrat’s opposition

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, and other Democrats from that group who have been leveraging their speaker votes for changes to House rules, reached an agreement with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 9:39 p.m. | Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus extracted concessions from Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday regarding changes to House rules in exchange for support from eight holdouts for her speaker bid. 

The agreement came early in the afternoon right as the Democratic Caucus reconvened their leadership elections and began the process for nominating Pelosi for speaker. She’s expected to win that simple-majority vote but has a tougher hurdle to climb heading into a Jan. 3 vote on the floor where she’ll need a majority of the House. 

The agreement with the Problem Solvers, however, further whittles down Pelosi’s opposition. 

“We said from the moment that we began our work on these reforms six months ago, that we would only support a speaker who was willing to agree to rules changes that would help Break the Gridlock,” the Problem Solvers said in a statement, referring to the name of their proposed rules package. 

“We have reached such an agreement with Leader Pelosi to help Break the Gridlock for the American people and will support her, so these rules and reforms can be adopted in January,” they said. 

Watch: Veronica Escobar Sees Unity Between Left and Right

The Problem Solvers began a push back in July for House rule changes that would foster more bipartisan legislating after unveiling their Break the Gridlock package. In September, 19 members of the bipartisan group — 10 Democrats and nine Republicans — pledged to only support a speaker candidate who backed the rule changes

With Democrats effectively in charge of electing the next speaker since they will be in the majority, it’s been nine Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus who’ve been leading the charge of late. 

California Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal, who was among the initial 19 pledge-takers in September, dropped out of the effort some point later. He signed a Nov. 19 “Dear Colleague” letter with eight other military veterans in Congress announcing their support for Pelosi

The others involved in the recent negotiations put out a statement Monday outlining three of the Break the Gridlock proposals they wanted Pelosi to support: timely floor consideration of bills with at least 290 co-sponsors, which is two-thirds of the House; guaranteed floor votes on amendments that have at least 20 Democratic and 20 Republican co-sponsors, and allowing every member at least one committee vote on a bill they introduce under jurisdiction of a panel they serve on that has at least one co-sponsor from the opposite party.

Pelosi and McGovern had already agreed to the first change before the statement went out, according to senior Democratic aide.

The second request was included in the agreement reached Wednesday but appears to be softer than the Problem Solvers’ initial proposal. Rather than a requirement, there will be “a Rules Committee Protocol that specifically adds a preference to amendments that comply with the rules, and have at least twenty Members of each party cosponsoring the amendment,” according to a summary of the agreement. 

The third request turned into an even greater compromise. The agreement only provides for markups on bills requested by a  majority of members on a committee, a higher bar than each member getting one if they just have a single opposite party co-sponsor. 

There were nine Problem Solvers involved in leveraging their speaker votes for rule changes: Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, the group’s co-chair, Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, Jim Costa of California, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Tom Suozzi of New York and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas.

Schrader, who is among another group of 16 Pelosi opponents who have signed a letter promising to vote for new leadership on the floor, was not party to the agreement the Problem Solvers reached with her Wednesday. He had told reporters Tuesday evening that he hadn’t been involved in the negotiations and would only support Pelosi if she backed all of the Break the Gridlock proposals. 

The agreement reached is not on every proposal the Problem Solvers offered, however. It does include some that were not on the three outlined in the Problem Solvers Monday statement but most of those were already in the draft rules package shared with the Democratic Caucus two weeks ago.

Schrader confirmed Wednesday evening that the deal the Problem Solvers reached with Pelosi wasn't good enough for him, although he commended Gottheimer for his work on it.

"I think Josh did a hell of a job ... but it's not nearly what we put in for our request and I think we can do better with new leadership," he said. 

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