Skip to main content

Congressional Texas Democrats likely to split on Pelosi

One Democratic Texas congressman has announced his opposition to Nancy Pelosi's bid for another term as House minority leader, and it's expected that others will join him.

Lead image for this article

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is facing an uprising in her own caucus — a rebellion that sources say includes Texans. 

While she is widely expected to retain her role as the Democratic House minority leader, Pelosi is fending off the largest public dissent of her tenure. That divide could manifest itself in a secret leadership vote Wednesday, and several Texans are expected to quietly take part in a rebellion against her. 

As Congress returned to business after Thanksgiving break on Tuesday evening, two Democratic House members told The Texas Tribune that as many as 70 members could back Pelosi's leadership rival, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, and that sum will likely include some Texans who will remain silent about their secret-ballot vote. 

One Texan is public in his support for Ryan: U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso Democrat with a maverick streak. 

"Sticking with the same leadership we've had for the last 14 years and expecting a different outcome just isn't smart," the sophomore congressman said. 

The problem for Pelosi is a restiveness among younger members that has festered for several years. The Democrats' disappointing 2016 returns — the party only picked up six of the 30 seats needed to take control of the chamber — only exacerbated that dissent. 

"I may be the only one who's public and ... I wouldn't be surprised if there were other Texas votes for Tim tomorrow," O'Rourke said, echoing what other members of Congress familiar with the Ryan whip count told the Tribune. 

Still, there are plenty of Texans who fiercely back Pelosi, including U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston and Filemon Vela of Brownsville. 

"I because she will fight for us,"  Jackson Lee tweeted on Nov. 22.

Pelosi is a legendary power broker in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, widely considered the political prodigy of her generation. But her caucus is increasingly younger and frustrated with her centralized style of power.

But mostly, there is palpable anger with the reality of another term in the minority. Her challenger, Ryan, suggested he could lead the party out of the wilderness in his native Rust Belt.

O'Rourke, in his interview with the Tribune made clear: His would be a positive — not negative — vote.

"I'm not opposing Nancy, I'm supporting Tim Ryan," he said. "I didn't come here to play it safe." 

Read more about Texans in Congress here:

The Texas Tribune Member Drive Fall 2021 banner

Support public-service journalism that’s always free to read.

Yes, I'll donate today