New York Democrat reverses course, now says he'll back Pelosi for speaker
Posted November 21, 2018 1:05 p.m. EST
(CNN) — New York Democrat Rep. Brian Higgins announced Wednesday he will support Rep. Nancy Pelosi's bid for House speaker, despite having signed a letter opposing the House Democratic leader released earlier this week.
Higgins' support removes another obstacle between Pelosi and the speaker gavel.
"Following conversations with Nancy and other Caucus leaders, I have renewed confidence that more voices will be heard, that members will each have greater opportunities to advance policies meaningful to the communities and country we love," Higgins said in a statement.
Pelosi has been working hard this fall to win support from her caucus to become the next House speaker after Democrats take over the majority next year, in spite of some members of her caucus and Democratic candidates in the midterms running on a campaign pledge of calling for new party leadership.
Pelosi held the position of speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, but in Monday's letter, 16 Democrats called for a leadership change following what had been a simmering resistance from within the party.
"As we head toward the 116th Congress and reclaim our Democratic majority, we believe more strongly than ever that the time has come for new leadership," the letter said.
In his statement on Wednesday, Higgins said he had "several productive discussions" with Pelosi about issues that had previously been of concern, including "making Medicare an option for Americans at age 50," lowering health care costs, and bringing forward a comprehensive infrastructure bill.
Since the midterms, Pelosi has maintained confidence she'll be the next speaker and has gone out of her way to meet privately with critics to hear their concerns. Higgins' announcement also follows Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge's endorsement of Pelosi on Tuesday. Fudge had previously weighed challenging Pelosi for speaker and had been her most likely potential challenger. Fudge and Pelosi met last week.
In a statement on Wednesday, Pelosi said she was "honored" by Higgins' support.
"His Medicare buy-in proposal is a central to this debate, as we work to build on the Affordable Care Act," she said. "We looking forward to working together to lower the cost of health care for hard-working families and raise their paychecks by building infrastructure of America, which is also an important issue to Congressman Higgins."
Higgins said he plans to "continue to advocate" for those issues with the support of the leadership.
"A principled stand, however, often requires a pragmatic outlook in order to meet with success. I look forward to new beginnings in the 116th Congress, where with leadership's help, I will continue to advocate for these changes so that this body can better fulfill its constitutional roles," he said.