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Why Democrats Opposed To Pelosi's Bid Ultimately Changed Their Minds

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As we just heard, the Democratic opposition to Pelosi's speakership wasn't enormous, but it was loud and committed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CORNISH: So it sounds like Pelosi will not be able to rely on your vote.

TIM RYAN: No (laughter). No, I will not be voting for her. No.

CORNISH: That was Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan on this show last month. Today he announced he would vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House after she agreed to limit her tenure. I asked him why that changed his mind.

RYAN: I think there was a recognition from Leader Pelosi that she was going to be a transitional candidate and that we do have an enormous amount of talent in our Democratic caucus. The people know that they voted for change, and we're going to give them the change that they want. In this agreement - well, it's not everything that I wanted. It is certainly one that brings the party together but also puts real reforms in place for the future of our caucus with six-year terms on the top leadership.

CORNISH: What does this mean for that new crop of Democrats, though, who campaigned telling voters that they would not vote for her?

RYAN: Well, there was a number of the candidates that won in a lot of the purple districts across the country that came down saying they were going to vote for a new leader. They were going to vote for change. This also frees them up to meet that obligation that they made to their constituents, which was very important for me to make sure that they could do that, but also addresses the change that is needed and puts that reform in place. You know, when you're making a deal, everybody gets something of what they want and everybody, you know, leaves something on the table that they couldn't get.

CORNISH: You had challenged Pelosi two years ago for the speakership. You were not successful. And over time, there has been this perception that dissenters basically don't have anyone powerful enough to challenge Pelosi, that there isn't someone who has the votes. Why can't anyone else get momentum?

RYAN: Well, part of why we wanted to get this reform in place is because you can accumulate a good deal of power over the years. And so it becomes very, very tough to overcome that. You know, we want a strong leader. But at the same time, you know, we don't want someone that can always prevent other people from coming up because that influx of ideas and people from different backgrounds moving into our leadership is a really important part of what it means to be a Democrat. And we want to keep that in place the best we can moving forward.

CORNISH: Did this debate take away time from the work of crafting a Democratic agenda for the new conference?

RYAN: I don't think so. I mean, you know, people always throw up their hands and say, well, we can't have a fight right now. I mean, there's never a good time to have an argument. You know, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We have very capable members of the Democratic caucus who have been crafting an agenda for the Democrats. And I think that work continued while this debate was taking place.

CORNISH: Going forward into this new Congress, are you confident that she'll be able to keep the caucus together on important votes at big moments?

RYAN: Well, it - we're going to be challenged, I think. It's going to be hard. I mean, we've got - you know, obviously, we saw it the other day at the White House, how difficult it is to try to nail down and negotiate with Donald Trump. We also have the Senate there. And I think internally, we have a very broad coalition. We have a number of members who got elected and represent purple districts or, you know, Republican plus 5- or 6-point districts.

And we have a new crop of a few progressives and everybody in between - all the way over to what we call the Blue Dogs and the people who represent a more conservative Democratic view are all in our caucus. And we only have a few seats to give away if there's a big vote that we need to have. So it's going to challenge all of us to figure out how to come together on issues that we can all agree on and try to move the country forward. It's going to be a lot of work for us moving forward.

CORNISH: That's Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

RYAN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.