Political Notebook

Costa, other Democrats might oppose Pelosi unless demands are met

Jim Costa discusses immigration reform, detention facilities and the wall

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, talks about immigration reform, a recent visit to a detention facility on the border, and the wall, during an editorial board meeting at the Fresno Bee, Wed. August 29, 2018.
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Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, talks about immigration reform, a recent visit to a detention facility on the border, and the wall, during an editorial board meeting at the Fresno Bee, Wed. August 29, 2018.

UPDATE: Democrats nominated Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday to the be speaker of the new Congressional majority, but there were concessions including deal with the Problem Solvers Caucus that Rep. Jim Costa is a member of. Read more here.


Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, has joined eight of his fellow Problem Solvers Caucus members in issuing a set of demands to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: Do your part to ease the partisanship rampant in Congress, or risk losing our votes in your bid for speaker of the House.

The Problem Solvers are made up of mostly moderate Democrats and Republicans who seek to change the ways in which the speaker can and can’t bring legislation to the floor while also fostering collaboration between both parties in Congress. In July, 36 members signed on to their proposal.

The group sent Pelosi a letter on Nov. 13 outlining their terms and have since kept up the pressure on Pelosi. She met with the Problem Solvers last week, and both sides released optimistic statements laden with similar messaging: “bipartisan,” “break the gridlock” and so on.

However, an agreement has not been hashed out, and the Problem Solvers renewed their demands in a statement Sunday.

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Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno. Fresno Bee file

“This November, voters sent a loud and clear message: They want Congress to get real results on health care, immigration, and infrastructure,” the statement reads.

It goes on to explain that bipartisan solutions will be necessary, as Democrats will control the House but Republicans still hold power in the Senate and the presidency. The caucus asks for three specific concessions from whomever is seeking their support for Speaker:

  • When a bill receives 290 cosponsors (or three-fifths of Congress), it will go to the House floor for debate and a timely vote.

  • When an amendment (a proposed change) to a bill has at least 20 Democratic and 20 Republican cosponsors, it will get a debate and a vote when that bill is considered on the floor.

  • Every Congress, each member will be allowed to introduce one bill for debate and a vote on a committee on which he/she serves. The bill must be germane to that committee’s jurisdiction and have at least one cosponsor from the other party.

Costa’s political opponents have frequently used Pelosi, a favorite villain of local conservatives, against him. In the most recent cycle, he said repeatedly he would honor the principles laid out by the Problem Solvers and, if necessary, oppose Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi spoke to supporters on November 6, 2018 after it was clear that Democrats would win enough seats in the House of Representatives to retake the majority.

“It is a significant and serious step aimed at ensuring that the House is more bipartisan, less gridlocked, and more representative of the American people,” Costa said of the caucus’ July proposal.

Pelosi needs 218 votes to be elected speaker. The Democrats appear to have 236 seats locked up, and they may pick up another should Fresno engineer TJ Cox upset Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in the 21st District. If Cox holds on to his small lead, Pelosi could lose 17 Democratic votes and still be elected speaker.

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Another, unrelated schism of 16 House Democrats also recently released its own letter opposing Pelosi.

Should the two groups hold in their opposition, Pelosi would be short of the total needed to be elected speaker.

Pelosi does not appear to have a clear challenger going into leadership negotiations Wednesday. She needs only a simple majority among House Democrats to win candidacy for the party.

Rory Appleton is a fourth-generation Fresnan who covers politics for his hometown newspaper. A Fresno State graduate, he has won six first-place California News Publishers Association awards and a McClatchy President’s Award for his reporting and column writing over the last two years.