LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said Monday that Nancy Pelosi is uniquely qualified to "hit the ground running" as the next House speaker during a crucial time when Democrats have a chance to show the country they can govern effectively.
Yarmuth, Kentucky's only Democratic congressman, told reporters he's "relatively confident" that his colleague from California will regain the speakership when Democrats assume control of the House early next year. Yarmuth said it would be a "smart move" to put the gavel back in her hands.
"I think right now most of the members who intend to vote for her - myself included - believe that we have six months basically to demonstrate whether we can govern effectively or not," Yarmuth said after attending an event at the Muhammad Ai Center in Louisville. "And no individual other than Nancy Pelosi is in a position to hit the ground running and lead us to an effective first six months."
After that, presidential politics will increasingly dominate the political landscape ahead of the 2020 elections. With power in Washington, D.C., divided with a Republican White House and Senate, Democrats have an opportunity to showcase their policy priorities in the House.
Pelosi's quest to lead her party's House majority in the next Congress drew a new threat Monday when a group of Democrats released a letter saying they will vote for "new leadership" when the House picks its leaders in January.
Yarmuth said he doubts efforts to derail Pelosi will succeed.
"There is a small group of people who can block her from becoming speaker, but they can't elect a speaker," he said. "So ultimately she has far more support than this small group represents. And I think ultimately this small group will not be willing to frustrate the vast majority of the caucus."
It's going to take a "skilled hand" to lead a much bigger and increasingly diverse Democratic House caucus that includes liberals, moderates and a large group of freshmen members, some of whom are "pretty aggressive," Yarmuth said.
"There are people who can get along with everybody else, but I don't think there are people who can actually manage such a diverse group of people as well as she can," he said.
Yarmuth - who represents the Louisville-area 3rd District - is in line to become chairman of the House Budget Committee in the next Congress.
The committee's chief responsibility has been passing budget resolutions setting overall spending limits for appropriators. But Yarmuth wants to broaden its scope to wade into such issues as tax cuts, health care, climate change and immigration to examine their impact on the federal budget.
He said his priorities in the next Congress including passing infrastructure and gun-safety legislation, strengthening protections for people with pre-existing health conditions and controlling health costs, including for prescriptions.