WASHINGTON ― House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday defended her leadership amid growing frustration within her caucus in the wake of a stinging special election loss in Georgia.
Some Democratic lawmakers and political operatives have said Pelosi contributed to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s loss to Karen Handel in the race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on Tuesday. Republicans aired numerous ads tying Ossoff to the San Francisco congresswoman, who, like other congressional leaders, is viewed unfavorably across the country.
“My decision about how long I stay is not up to them,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding that she welcomed the prospect of a fight. “I love the arena. I thrive on competition, and I welcome the discussion.”
“You want me to sing my praises, is that it?” she added wryly, in response to a question about whether she thought it was time to step down as minority leader.
“I’m a master legislator. I’m a strategic, politically astute leader,” she said.
A number of Democrats have renewed their calls for Pelosi to step down as minority leader and make room for new ― and younger ― voices.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who mounted a stronger-than-expected challenge to Pelosi in last year’s House leadership elections, said on Wednesday that Pelosi is toxic in some parts of the country.
“You know what, the honest answer is in some areas of the country ― yes, she is. That’s the honest answer,” he told CNN.
Reps. Seth Moulton (Mass.) and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), two younger Democrats who supported Ryan’s bid, echoed that sentiment in interviews on Wednesday.
After announcing he is planning to challenge Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) next year, Democrat Joe Cunningham on Wednesday tweeted, ”If elected, I will not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Time to move forward and win again.”
President Donald Trump added fuel to the flames by mocking Democrats on Twitter.
During her Thursday press conference, Pelosi defended her long tenure in the House, stating that her experience, fundraising prowess, and record in passing legislation is “worth the trouble, quite frankly.”
The minority leader also responded to Republican attack ads in Georgia and elsewhere that targeted her record and her San Francisco district.
“I take their insult against my city as a bankruptcy of their values,” she said.