Massachusetts politicians vocal in debate over Pelosi, minority leadership

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STATE HOUSE – As Democrats in Congress regroup after losing the White House and prepare for life under a President Donald Trump, talks are escalating over a change of leadership in the House and Massachusetts delegation members have emerged as among the most vocal in that unfolding debate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi assented Tuesday to a delay in leadership elections until after Thanksgiving, giving Democrats who have been in the House minority since 2011 time to assess how they want to move forward. The election had been scheduled for Thursday, but is now planned for Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, House Republicans moved quickly Tuesday to unanimously renominate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for speaker setting up an easy vote come January when the next Congress is seated and quelling talk of divisions within the House GOP caucus.

While several Bay State representatives have fared well under Pelosi’s leadership, newcomer Rep. Seth Moulton of Salem spearheaded the effort to delay the vote and some more veteran members of the delegation have signaled the time may be right for a change.

“There is broad angst in the Democratic caucus,” Rep. Richard Neal, the dean of the delegation from Springfield, told reporters Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. “To stick with the same message over four bad election cycles is a mistake,” he said. “I think part of it is that the messengers have to change.”

No Massachusetts members of Congress have called outright for Pelosi to be replaced, but several have said it’s a topic worth discussing after Trump’s victory sent shock waves through the party and led Democratic leaders nationally and in Massachusetts to reconsider the party’s core message and how it gets delivered to voters.

“As we begin the 115th Congress, House Democrats must take the time to reflect on the message the American people sent us last Tuesday. Delaying the vote on leadership positions is the necessary first step to have that conversation. The American people cried out last week and we’ve got to listen,” Moulton said in a statement after Tuesday’s decision to delay.

After a decade of Pelosi leading the House Democratic caucus in both the minority and majority, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is reportedly mulling a challenge to the California lawmaker.

“I love Nancy Pelosi, but I’m a coach. I kind of think there comes a time…The Democratic caucus has to go back real clearly and have this discussion and we will be doing that,” U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano said last week during an appearance on WGBH’s “Greater Boston.”

Capuano was joined for that segment by House colleagues Reps. Niki Tsongas and Joseph Kennedy.

“I think we have to go back and have the conversation about what’s next,” Tsongas said about Pelosi’s continued leadership.

On Tuesday, Tsongas said she appreciated Pelosi’s “timely decision to delay the leadership elections, recognizing that our caucus needs more time to fully examine and discuss the election results as we make decisions about the way forward for our party in the House of Representatives.”

The Lowell Democrat, however, also signed on to a letter circulated last week by California Rep. Doris Matsui among the 54 members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus urging Pelosi to “continue as the Leader for our party and our nation.”

“We believe that now, more than ever, our Caucus and our country need your strategic, battle-tested leadership to guide us through the years ahead,” the letter read. “After everything that happened in this campaign, the defeat of Hillary Clinton is an especially heavy blow to the aspirations of young women and girls. They need to see the first woman Speaker – and every woman Member of Congress – standing firm in the halls of power, continuing the fight for their rights, their dignity, and their dreams.”

At least 50 of the 54 women in the House signed the letter, according to a Congressional aide. U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, the other woman in the state’s delegation, also signed the letter supporting Pelosi, according to a staffer.

Kennedy, during his appearance on “Greater Boston” last Wednesday, said: “I’m a fan of leader Pelosi, but I think there’s certainly going to be a conversation going forward about what our caucus needs to do, but she’s done a great job.”

— Written by Matt Murphy