Leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives may be looking quite different in the not-so-distant future as Democrats face the inevitable exit of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The 81-year-old California Democrat is expected to step down from her speaker post at the end of the current Congress and, with the recent growth in influence of the party’s more left-wing members as well as the coming midterm elections later this year, a shift is coming, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Almost two dozen House Democrats announced last year that they would not be running for reelection, further threatening to derail the tenuous majority grasp of Democrats in Congress. And with continued infighting over policies between moderates and progressives in the past year, notably with the “Squad,” the far-left wing of the House Democrats, Pelosi’s previous control of her caucus seemed to slip away.
“House Democrats are bracing for a turnover in leadership next year that would amount to a seismic event for the party — one that could empower a new, diverse generation of members while also exacerbating tensions over the direction of the caucus and the policies it should pursue,” the Washington Post reported.
Even though Pelosi has not confirmed any reports about her plans, changes are coming, according to The Post report, after nearly two decades with the same leaders steering the Democrat ship, with Pelosi, 82-year-old Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland who has been both majority leader and minority whip, and 81-year-old Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina who also served as the majority whip.
“After almost 19 years as House Democratic leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to step down at the close of this Congress, ending a historic career that included trying to end George W. Bush’s Iraq War, implementing President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, impeaching President Donald Trump twice and squeezing President Biden’s sweeping agenda through a narrowly controlled House,” The Post continued.
Pelosi has previously avoided questions about her plans, telling reporters in November, “I’m not here to talk about me” when asked.
“I’m not here to talk about me, I’m here to talk about building back better,” Pelosi says, swatting away a question on whether she will run for re-election next year
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 19, 2021
At the top of the list for replacements is reportedly U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who currently chairs the House Democratic Caucus. Jeffries “is the early favorite to become the next Democratic leader,” according to The Post which also noted that the “maneuvering for power has just begun, and fights over who else should be on the leadership team could pit the ideological factions of the caucus against each other.”
If Jeffries assumes the post, he would become the first black person in U.S. history to lead a chamber of Congress.
“I think we want leadership that bridges some of the different ideological wings of the party, that is committed to listening to all of the perspectives, that will be capable of helping move the Senate or things that have stalled in the House, and has a bold vision of what we need to achieve for the American public,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California told The Post.
“But whoever it is, I hope they would adopt progressive positions and also listen to the broad caucus and build consensus,” the progressive lawmaker added.
The newspaper spoke with over two dozen lawmakers, with commentary ranging from respect and support of Pelosi as well as thoughts that a fresh, new breed of leadership is needed.
“I want to make sure that it is someone who can pull the party together,” Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois told the outlet. “As Pelosi says: ‘Our diversity is our strength, and unity is our power.’ I want to make sure it’s someone who can hold that unity.”
Unlike that moderate lawmaker, far-left Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal had a different view on centralized power.
“I think there was a ‘holding of power’ model that worked very well for a long time, and I think now it is more about a recognition of different centers of focus within the Democratic caucus that have to be brought in and brought together,” she said.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., complained to BuzzFeed last month about Democrats’ “old ways of thinking.”
“I don’t wear those same glasses that she wears,” the outspoken freshman lawmaker said of Pelosi. “For me, I’m not a woman first, I’m Black first. I don’t care about party lines the way that she does. I don’t care about looking like I’m leading, or care about being the one that is staying within — like, just playing the game.”
According to The Post report, Hoyer and Rep. Adam Schiff are both interested in succeeding Pelosi while Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California could be looking to step up into leadership positions.
A CNN report in mid-December noted that Pelosi “will stay until at least after the midterm elections, extending her nearly 20-year run as the House’s top Democrat after she turns 82 and, perhaps, beyond.”
“She is planning to file and run for reelection in her San Francisco district next year — at least for now — in keeping with her pattern of deciding about staying in Congress after the elections, when she likely will have won an 18th full term,” CNN reported.
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