Cicilline backs Nancy Pelosi, but Langevin won’t

David Cicilline and Jim Langevin

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s two Democratic congressmen are taking different approaches to the fight roiling their caucus over whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should remain as their leader.

Pelosi is facing a revolt from some House Democrats after another disappointing election earlier this month. Their party has controlled the House for only four years since 1995, and will hold just 194 of the chamber’s 435 seats come January. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan announced Thursday he will challenge Pelosi for minority leader.

Congressman Jim Langevin, first elected in 2000, declined to throw his support behind Pelosi when asked about her future Thursday.

In a terse statement to Eyewitness News, Langevin said: “Nancy has done an incredible job as Leader and I will continue to talk to my colleagues about the best way to move our caucus forward.”

This isn’t the first time Langevin has expressed reservations about Pelosi’s leadership. In the spring of last year, Langevin suggested on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers that Democrats might need to find a new leader – only to walk back his comments through a spokeswoman hours later.

Sam Bell, who heads the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, said Langevin pledged to continue supporting Pelosi during a meeting with the group earlier this year.

“I’m assuming that this is all a misunderstanding,” Bell said in an email. “Jim Langevin gave us a commitment on camera that he was supporting Nancy Pelosi during the primary, and I take him at his word.”

By contrast, a spokesman for Congressman David Cicilline, first elected in 2010, said Thursday he remains behind Pelosi. Cicilline has positioned himself as a loyal Pelosi ally since he entered Congress six years ago.

Ciciline offered a full-throated endorsement of Pelosi in a statement.

“We have a strong, effective Democratic leadership team in the House,” he said. “Following last week’s election, we should reflect on the results, share the messages we heard during our campaigns from those we serve, and think carefully about the clear message voters sent – that they are anxious about their economic future and the direction of our country, and that it’s time Washington start working for them.”

Cicilline said he wants House Democrats to back policies that will encourage wage growth, retirement security, college affordability and job creation. “I’m confident that we will advance these goals under the current Democratic leadership team in the House,” he said.

Pelosi has led House Democrats since 2003 and served as speaker from 2007 to 2011. Earlier this week House Democrats delayed their leadership elections until Nov. 30, which was seen as a blow to Pelosi.

Langevin and Cicilline both won easy re-election victories earlier this month. However, the are facing the prospect of running against each other in a 2022 primary if Rhode Island loses a U.S. House seat that year as experts say is possible.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram