As a faction of Democrats try to deny House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi the speakership, at least one Republican may offer her a lifeline.
GOP Rep. Tom Reed of New York told CNN that he could back Pelosi if she endorses a bipartisan package of rules changes that would make it easier to push legislation and weaken the power of the leadership to dictate the agenda on the House floor.
"As a Republican standing here with my Democratic colleagues, I am sick and tired of this institution being controlled by essentially one office that I'm willing to take such a disruptive position as this for the American people to say look at a Democratic candidate who embraces these new reforms, I will stand with," Reed said in an interview, standing alongside three Democrats who are joining him in the effort.
Asked if he would be able to withstand the backlash from Republicans by potentially backing Pelosi, Reed indicated he would.
"You know obviously there would be significant backlash," Reed said. "But, I firmly believe that if you do the right thing, for the right reason, the right things will happen in life. And this is that moment."
Reed said he's "open" to backing Pelosi because he's "so frustrated with this institution being just a top-down driven organization that essentially -- you work hard to get bipartisan consensus legislation and you're told no -- the rules of the House say no you can't have that done."
Reed added: "It is time to change this, and if Nancy Pelosi's the only one's that there, I am open to it."
Reed's comments are significant because Pelosi now is facing an aggressive push by a small group of Democrats to deny her votes on the House floor, where she will need a majority of the chamber to support her to become speaker. That means Republicans could potentially lend her support -- something that President Donald Trump himself suggested was a possibility last week.
But Pelosi on Thursday insisted she would not need the support of Republicans, promising she would win on Democratic votes alone.
"I intend to win the speakership with Democratic votes," she said.
Still, Pelosi will need the support of the group Reed is a part of -- called the Problem Solvers Caucus, comprised of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats that works to promote bipartisanship in Congress and present agreements on key legislation. They're now proposing a package of reforms known as "Break the Gridlock" that would weaken party leaders' control over which bills get brought to the floor and make it easier for bipartisan legislation to get a vote.
Pelosi met with the bipartisan group this week and praised their efforts. But the members said they need a firm commitment -- in writing.
"Of course, because otherwise -- we've had great conversations, now we have to see in detail specifically what's going to happen," New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat who is part of the group.
The proposals include ensuring that bills passed by committees get to the floor, requiring a panel vote for any bill that gains 290 cosponsors or a majority of members of both parties, and allowing each member to have at least one bill marked up each session as long as it has a cosponsor from the opposite party, among other ideas.
"I've been saying the same things for months now, I think a lot of us have," said Democratic Rep. Tom Souzzi of New York. "I won't vote for any speaker unless they agree to change the rules to make it easier to put things on the floor where we can find broad bipartisan consensus."
The members of the group said they had not yet met with any other prospective challengers -- including Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
"I think anybody who is seeking the speakership is welcome to have the conversation with us about this because in order for us to support a speaker candidate, we need to be able to adopt these reforms," said Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, a Democrat and member of the group."
This story has been updated to reflect additional comment from Rep. Tom Reed.
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