House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi faces a bitter split among House Democrats over how to handle Democratic Michigan Rep. John Conyers’ alleged pattern of sexual abuse against female staffers.
The allegations against Conyers, who is 88-years-old and the longest-serving member of Congress, have inflamed the tense relationship between Democratic leaders like Pelosi and younger House Democrats who want to replace them.
Pelosi and other establishment Democrats have been content to defer to a House Ethics Committee investigation — which can take years — instead of saying whether Conyers should resign.
The Congressional Black Caucus won’t call on Conyers to resign, despite reports that some CBC members were quietly pressuring him to step down. “We are not urging John Conyers to resign,” CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond said on Wednesday. “We think that is a decision for him and his family and his constituents.”
At the same time, some younger House Democrats are demanding party leadership enforce consequences against Conyers, who is alleged to have sexually preyed on female staffers, demanding sexual favors from them and abusing taxpayer resources to sexually pursue women.
Two Democratic congresswomen, New York Rep. Kathleen Rice and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, have already called on Conyers to resign. Rice has criticized the ethics committee investigation as “not real” in regard to accountability. Their sharp response contrasted with Pelosi’s initial stance, which was to defend Conyers as “an icon.”
Democratic Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan demanded on Wednesday that the ethics committee finish the investigation this week, and said that Conyers should resign if true. Ryan said that he believes Conyers’ accusers.
Pelosi may recognize the movement against Conyers within her own party is likely part of the larger movement against the older Dem guard to push all of them out.
— Kerry Picket (@KerryPicket) November 26, 2017
Rep. Rice stormed out of a meeting with House Democrats early because she didn’t believe they weren’t serious about trying to address sexual harassment. “I don’t have time for meetings that aren’t real,” she told reporters.
At that meeting, California Rep. Linda Sanchez reportedly complained that congressmen are being held to too high of a standard. (RELATED: Al Franken’s Evolving Responses To Sexual Harassment Allegations)
Both Rice and Ryan have called on Pelosi to step down as House Minority Leader. Ryan unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi for her leadership position following Democrats’ stunning losses in the 2016 election.
“Nancy Pelosi was a great speaker. She is a great leader. But her time has come and gone,” Rice said in June, adding that “the entire leadership team” needs to go as well.
Ryan threw Pelosi under the bus again in June, saying that she is hurting other Democratic candidates. “It doesn’t benefit our candidates to be tied to her,” he said. (RELATED: Dems Turn On Nancy Pelosi After Ossoff Loss [VIDEO])
But it’s not just Pelosi’s enemies who are bucking her leadership on Conyers.
Jayapal, a first-term congresswoman whose first remarks on the House floor were in support of the embattled Pelosi, accused Democrats of turning “a blind eye to their own who face credible charges against them.”
Other Democratic leaders, meanwhile, want the party to pump the brakes on calls for Conyers to resign and are increasing pressure on Pelosi to slow the process down.
“I don’t know all the facts, I don’t know the specific allegations,” Sanchez told reporters on Wednesday, saying that she “can’t sit and judge a member and call for their resignation unless I’ve been party to hearing all of the evidence and hearing the defense of the evidence.”
Democratic New York Rep. Joseph Crowley echoed Sanchez’s position and, like Sanchez, declined to call on Conyers to resign.
“Calling for the resignation of someone doesn’t actually create the resignation,” Crowley said, adding that he would wait for the ethics committee’s investigation. (RELATED: Conyers’ Attorney Hints At ‘Allegations’ Against ‘Many Members’ Of The House And Senate)
Full disclosure: Kathleen Rice is a distant family relative of this reporter.