OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will “not lead Democrats” into the new Congress but she is not retiring, either.
Speculation about her retirement has been rampant since it was assumed that Republicans would win back the House, which has now happened. A new report from Puck News states that Pelosi will not serve as the House minority leader but remain in Congress.
Sometime around noon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will walk out onto the House floor to take her final bow after 19 years as head of the Democratic caucus with a speech about passing the torch from one generation to the next, I’m told. But instead of riding high into retirement, as has long been assumed, or becoming ambassador to Italy—a diplomatic posting the White House has been holding open for her—Pelosi will announce that she plans to stay in Congress as a backbencher, roaming the halls in a sort of emeritus role and helping to guide Democrats through their turn in the minority.
The decision to step down from leadership was reached over the weekend, as I reported on Monday, after Pelosi crafted a retirement speech with the help of the celebrity historian and presidential biographer Jon Meacham, a favorite of the Democratic elite, including Joe Biden, for exactly these types of moments. I was told there were multiple drafts of the speech, signifying Pelosi’s indecision and the fluidity of the midterm election results.
Pelosi also made the official announcement from the House floor:
BREAKING: PELOSI: “I will not seek re-election as Democratic leader of our caucus in the next Congress." pic.twitter.com/4eNKsAs0ti
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) November 17, 2022
NEW: On the House floor at noon, Pelosi will say in a speech crafted in part by Jon Meacham that she intends to pass the torch to the next generation of leadership but will stay on as a backbencher to help guide future leader Hakeem Jeffries https://t.co/2tIhc85niv
— Tara Palmeri (@tarapalmeri) November 17, 2022
A report from Politico reveals that Democrats held a “secret meeting” on Sept. 1 to determine who will replace Pelosi as the leader of House Democrats. If reporting is true, it might be down to California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff and New York Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
“Jeffries, the fifth-ranking House Democrat who aspires to be the first-ranking House Democrat in the next Congress, was picking up heightened chatter from colleagues about California Rep. Adam Schiff’s outreach expressing his own interest in the top caucus job. The 52-year-old Jeffries was concerned enough that he offered to fly to South Carolina to seek the counsel of the 82-year-old Clyburn. The younger lawmaker wanted to gently make sure his elder in the Congressional Black Caucus knew of Schiff’s quiet campaign — and to even more gently warn Clyburn about the risk of splitting votes between them and opening a path for the ambitious Californian,” Politico reported.
“There’s nothing I would ever do to impede the progress of our up-and-coming young Democrats and I see him as an up-and-coming young Democrat,” Clyburn said in an interview about Jeffries. “He knows that, I didn’t have to tell him that — but I did.”
And on Sunday she appeared on the ABC show “This Week” where one of the topics of conversation was her future and where she insisted she did not have plans to step away from Congress.
“Madam Speaker, if you do decide to step away from Congress, how do you want your Speakerships to be remembered?” host George Stephanopoulos said.
“Well, I don’t have any plans to step away from Congress. I don’t – you asked me about running for Leadership. No, I mean, these votes are very close, though,” the Speaker said.
“The – well, my flagship issue has – from the start of my being in Congress has been the climate issue. But in the course of things we – when we had the opportunity to expand health care for all Americans, that has to be my major accomplishment. I take great pride in that. Great pride in passing it under the leadership of President Obama and working with Harry Reid in the Senate. I take great pride in saving it from those who wanted to repeal it. For what reason? I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. To remove millions of people from having access to health care,” she said.
“That – Martin Luther King said, ‘Of all the inequalities, the inequity in access to health care is the most inhuman,’ he said, ‘because people can die.’ So I thank God for giving me the opportunity to play a role in that. And it’s an ongoing role to pass it, to protect it, to expand it.
“But I take pride in so much else. But I don’t take credit for it. My Members, the courage of the Members, the House Democrats, to vote for this – it’s easy for me coming from the beautiful place that I do, San Francisco, harder for others. And it’s their courage that made so much of this possible. So, I’m so glad that we had a great – we increased – just dispelled the notion that Democrats could not win. We’re coming close. But we’re on a path to a brighter future for America. And I’m very proud of our Members, our candidates, their courage and their purpose and their success,” she said.