House Dems Expect ‘More Decentralised, Younger And Diverse' Leadership in Post-Nancy Pelosi Era
Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the only woman in US history to lead the House of Representatives, has served twice each as Minority Leader (2003–2007 and 2011–2019) and as Speaker (2007–2011 and since 2019). In 2018 Pelosi said she would agree not to serve as speaker beyond another four years.
As House Democratic leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is expected to step down at the close of this Congress after a nearly 20-year run, the debate has already begun as to who could succeed her.
Nancy Pelosi has served twice each as House Minority Leader (2003–2007 and 2011–2019) and as Speaker (2007–2011 and since 2019). In November 2020, following her nomination by the Democrats to another term as speaker of the House, Pelosi was asked about her future plans in the role.
"There was a move to put limits on the leadership and the chairs of committees. They said they were going to do it, they didn't do it. But what I said then was whether it passes or not, I will abide by those limits. ... I don't want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement," responded Pelosi, signifying that she would not remain Speaker beyond 2022.
The change in leadership will come at a time of heightened tensions between progressives and moderates, such as those evident regarding President Joe Biden’s vast Build Back Better social spending bill. A self-styled ‘moderate conservative Democrat’, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has been a key holdout on various pieces of legislation.
3 January, 10:16 GMT
Biden’s agenda set on expanding education, health-care and climate change programs has laid bare the deep rifts within the Democratic party between liberal and centrist members.
Speculating on a future caucus injected with fresh blood, more than two dozen Democrats have been interviewed by The Washington Post.
Regardless of whether the Democrats return to the minority or maintain control of the House after the midterm elections, many lawmakers have indicated a readiness to ditch the “old guard”, such as Pelosi’s top deputies - Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC).
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, is the early favorite to become the next Democratic leader.
The reportedly ambitious Jeffries, 51, representing New York's 8th Congressional District, has been regarded by many Democrats as poised to become the first black speaker of the House after Pelosi steps down.
Recalling Pelosi’s “historic” claim to first female speakership, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Ohio, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, was cited as saying:
“… I would want the leadership to be reflective of this wonderful democracy in America we live in… Certainly I would like to be able to say that I was part of the process that had the first Black American to be speaker of the US Congress.”
She touted Jeffries, said to be friendly with the business community and New York’s finance industry, as “brilliant” and “fearless”.
“I mean, if we are fighting for something, I want Hakeem Jeffries on my side because he will go to the mat on an issue,” stated Beatty. Hakeem Jeffries would be the first Black person to lead either party in either chamber.
When he was questioned in December on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” regarding the rumours he could replace Pelosi, Jeffries said, “It’s an honour to be able to chair the [Democratic] caucus.”
Other Democrats insisted it was important to choose someone for the leadership position who could “bridges some of the different ideological wings of the party.”
Liberal Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.) was cited as saying that Pelosi’s successor should be “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”.
“More decentralised leadership” was what progressive chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal was hoping for.
“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,” said Jayapal.
Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois, a moderate, suggested that the party needed a leader like Pelosi who could “pull the party together”.
“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,” he said.
As for the aforementioned “old guard”, James E. Clyburn, who has been in leadership since 2003, said in an interview claiming the post of Speaker “was not on his radar”. He did, however, question the perceived eagerness for a generational change at the top.
“I don’t know. I don’t understand it. I’ll just simply say this: We have to be very, very careful. There has to be a healthy balance of strength and experience,” he was cited as saying.
Steny H. Hoyer, who has reportedly long hankered for Pelosi’s spot, was cited by sources as privately acknowledging the unlikelihood of this happening amid the caucus’s “desperate need” to elect new leaders.