Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), a critic of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), reversed course on Wednesday and announced his support for the Democratic leader to be speaker of the House.
Higgins was one of 16 Democrats who signed a letter earlier this month pledging not to support Pelosi for speaker. The Buffalo-area congressman said in June he would not back the Democratic minority leader, describing her at the time as “aloof, frenetic and misguided.”
On Wednesday, however, Higgins told The Buffalo News that he had decided to back Pelosi after she agreed to prioritize two of his main goals in the next Congress: infrastructure reform and allowing people to buy into Medicare at age 50.
“I have an agreement in principle with the Democratic leader that those are going to be two priorities, and that I will be the lead person on the Medicare buy-in,” Higgins said in the interview.
He addressed the reversal head-on in a separate statement from his office.
“Some will ask why I have changed my position. The answer is simple: I took a principled stand .... A principled stand, however, often requires a pragmatic outlook in order to meet with success,” Higgins said.
Pelosi, meanwhile, said in a statement that she is “honored” by Higgins’ support. She praised Higgins for leadership on “the issue of achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
What had seemed like a serious challenge to Pelosi’s second bid for the House gavel appears to be falling apart only two weeks since the November midterm elections, when Democrats picked up nearly 40 seats and reclaimed control of the House. Further hurting the anti-Pelosi effort is the lack of a viable alternative. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) announced this week she would not challenge Pelosi for speaker.
Pelosi got even more good news on Wednesday, when former President Barack Obama gave her a full-throated endorsement.
“Nancy Pelosi, when the history is written, will go down as one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen,” Obama said, heaping praise on her work getting the Affordable Care Act passed in the House. “Her stamina, her ability to see around corners, her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done I think stands up against any person that I’ve observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime.”