Nancy Pelosi ensured she will become House speaker next month
Washington. Nancy Pelosi ensured Wednesday that she will become House speaker next month, quelling a revolt by disgruntled younger Democrats by agreeing to limit her tenure to no more than four additional years in the chamber’s top post.
Within moments of announcing she would restrict her time in the job, seven of her critics distributed a statement promising to back the California Democrat.
Democrats widely agreed that the pledge meant Pelosi had clinched a comeback to the post she held from 2007 until January 2011, the last time her party ran the House and the first time the speaker was a woman.
Wednesday’s accord gives Pelosi a clear path to becoming the most powerful Democrat in government and a leading role in confronting President Donald Trump during the upcoming 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.
It moves a 78-year-old white woman to the cusp of steering next year’s diverse crop of House Democrats, with its large number of female, minority and younger members.
The agreement also ends what’s been a distracting, harsh leadership fight among Democrats that has been waged since Election Day, when they gained at least 39 seats and grabbed House control for the next Congress. It was their biggest gain of House seats since the 1974 post-Watergate election.
Democrats have been hoping to train public attention on their 2019 agenda focusing on health care, jobs and wages, and building infrastructure projects. They also envision investigations of Trump, his 2016 presidential campaign and his administration.
To line up support, Pelosi initially resorted to full-court lobbying by congressional allies, outside Democratic luminaries, and liberal and labor organizations. She cut deals with individual lawmakers for committee assignments and roles leading legislative efforts.
But in the end, she had to make concessions about her tenure to make sure she’ll win a majority — likely 218 votes — when the new House convenes Jan 3. Democrats are likely to have 235 seats, meaning she could spare only 17 defections and still prevail if, as expected, Republicans all oppose her.
Pelosi had described herself as a transitional leader over the last several weeks. But she’d resisted defining how long she would serve as speaker, saying it would lessen her negotiating leverage to declare herself a lame duck.
On Wednesday, she gave in to her opponents’ demands that she limit her service. Under the deal, House Democrats will vote by Feb 15 to change party rules to limit their top three leaders to no more than four two-year terms, including time they’ve already spent in those jobs.
“I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not,” Pelosi said in her statement.
Pelosi’s opponents have argued it was time for younger leaders to command the party. They also said her demonization as an out-of-touch radical in tens of millions of dollars’ worth of Republican television ads was costing Democrats seats.