Pelosi to serve just one more term as speaker, keeping promise from 2018

‘I will abide by those limits that are there,’ Ms Pelosi re-affirms of her agreement to step down in 2023

Griffin Connolly
Wednesday 18 November 2020 14:03 EST
Nancy Pelosi: can't wait to be working with a new president of the United States Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she intends to keep her promise from 2018 to step down from her perch atop the House Democratic caucus at the end of the next Congress in 2023.

The California congresswoman stepping down would spell the end of a 20-year reign as the top-ranking Democrat in the chamber.

Ms Pelosi took over for ex-Congressman Dick Gephardt as House Democratic Leader in 2003.

In December 2018, after Democrats had taken back a House majority they hadn’t enjoyed since 2011, Ms Pelosi struck a deal with members of her caucus who were challenging her leadership to serve no greater than two more terms in the top spot.

There had been chatter among House Democrats to enshrine that transfer of internal power by setting term limits for certain Democratic leadership positions. Those changes to internal caucus rules never materialised, but Ms Pelosi plans to keep to that agreed-to timeline anyway.

“What I said then is whether it passes or not I will abide by those limits that are there,” she told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

“If my husband is listening, don’t let me to have to be more specific than that.”

The speaker, who has represented the San Francisco Bay area in California since 1987, did not fully commit to stepping down after her next term, suggesting that doing so would risk giving Republicans negotiating “leverage.”

But, she added, “I made the statement.”

Ms Pelosi breezed to re-election on Wednesday to be the Democrats’ nominee for speaker for the 117th Congress when it is sworn in on 3 January. No Democrat stepped up to challenge her.

She told reporters that no one who voted for her this time around brought up her term limit deal in 2018.

For years, many junior Democratic lawmakers have been jostling for a shakeup in leadership to better represent the party’s base of young voters and infuse the caucus with more energy. But Ms Pelosi and her top deputies, Congressmen Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, have kept a steel grip on power.

Ms Pelosi, Mr Hoyer and Mr Clyburn are 80, 81 and 80, respectively.

While that triumvirate did not face challenges to their positions in Wednesday’s caucus elections, notable infighting has spilled out into the public domain between progressives and moderates over the direction of the Democratic party.

Congressman Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, who both represent traditionally purple, moderate parts of the country, have criticised progressives for damaging the brand of the Democratic party at-large by pushing an agenda and political catch phrases — such as “defund the police” — seen as far too radical by conservative-leaning voters.

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and other progressive firebrands have accused those moderates of trying to silence them and their constitutents.

Ms Pelosi insisted on Wednesday that despite the public mud-slinging, Democrats have shown “a tremendous amount of unity” since the 2020 election where they lost several seats and failed to knock off any GOP incumbents.

Ms Pelosi also signaled optimism about working with a new administration in January led by President-elect Joe Biden.

“I can't wait to be working with Joe Biden and preparing us for our transition into the future,” she said.

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