Nancy Pelosi continued to express confidence on Thursday that she will become House Speaker in the next Congress, despite the fact that her detractors are growing more outspoken in their criticism of the long-time Democratic leader and Rep. Marcia Fudge publicly weighs a potential challenge against her.
Pelosi downplayed the possibility that Fudge could enter the speakers' race at a weekly news conference in Washington.
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"Come on in, the water's warm," she said, suggesting that she is unconcerned about a potential challenge, when asked about the possibility that the Ohio Democrat could launch a bid to become Speaker in the next session of Congress when Democrats hold the majority.
Asked if she believes she has the votes to win the election, Pelosi replied, "yes," without hesitation.
House Democrats will select their nominee for speaker in an election the week after Thanksgiving. Currently, Pelosi is the only candidate officially running for the position. Fudge has indicated she will make formal decision soon. The full House floor vote to determine who will be the next Speaker will take place in January.
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, a leading Pelosi critic, told reporters after the news conference that "she's wrong" when asked about Pelosi's prediction she would win the speakership.
"We've got the votes," Moulton said.
Fudge, who was first elected to the House in 2008, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Wednesday that she is "thinking about" challenging Pelosi for the top spot in Democratic leadership in the next session of Congress.
On Thursday, Fudge told The Washington Post that she is "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of support she has received from colleagues as she considers the possibility of entering the race.
Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond says he would support Fudge if she decides to challenge Pelosi.
"I am not anti-Pelosi but, whatever Marcia does, I am very pro-Marcia," the Louisiana Democrat told reporters.
"Let me be clear about this: if Marcia Fudge does anything except run against (Assistant Democratic Leader James) Clyburn I would be in support of her," Richmond said. "But is is not a race now. People are trying to make it a race. So that is a decision for Marcia."
He added, "I think Nancy would be a great speaker. I really do. I think Marcia would be a great speaker too. This is a family fight."
Seventeen Democrats have now signed a letter saying they won't vote for Pelosi for Speaker on the House floor, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter.
When pressed to weigh in on the letter during Thursday's press conference, Pelosi asked, "Have you seen the letter?" before reiterating that she continues to have confidence that she has support to become speaker.
Pelosi detractors have become more outspoken in calling for change at the top of the Democratic leadership hierarchy in recent days. At the same time, however, other Democrats in the House have also been vocal in showing support for Pelosi to become Speaker.
On Thursday, fellow California Rep. Karen Bass tweeted that Pelosi has her support. "Nancy Pelosi has my vote for Speaker," she wrote.