OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Rumors continue to swirl that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “expected” to retire or “step back” after November’s midterm elections.
A new report reveals that California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff is positioning himself as heir to Pelosi’s speakership if she chooses to retire after Republicans likely win back the House. Pelosi, for her part, has announced that she will seek re-election in November.
The Washington Post reports that Schiff’s efforts have “focused on consolidating support among his home base” in California, but that he “has not made an explicit ask for endorsements.” Instead, the Post says Schiff “is gauging members’ interest and planting the seed that leading the caucus is his goal.”
The outlet adds that Schiff has reached out to progressive and minority-led congressional groups but that the response to some of that outreach has been “tepid.”
Other Democrats reportedly gunning to lead the House Democratic Caucus if Pelosi steps back include Democrat Reps. Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, and Hakeem Jeffries.
A report from Vanity Fair this month details how “House Democrats don’t know how their top leadership ranks will shake out after the midterms. But there is a real appetite for generational change.”
Nobody can say for sure, but there’s an expectation among aides on Capitol Hill that if Democrats lose control of the House—as “is the most likely scenario,” per one Democratic aide—Nancy Pelosi will step down. There are the all-important caveats (“Anyone who tells you that they know what Speaker Pelosi is going to do—unless it is Speaker Pelosi—is lying to you,” another aide tells me), but as the November midterms inch closer, and the prospect of being in the minority grows, the jockeying to succeed one of the most storied Democratic leadership teams has begun in full force.
The drama isn’t only around Pelosi’s next steps, however. Between the 82-year-old Speaker, House majority leader Steny Hoyer, 83, and House majority whip Jim Clyburn, 82—Pelosi’s number two and three—Democrats’ top leadership team combined has more than a century of experience in the House. Democratic lawmakers aren’t just eyeing who would replace their top leader; there’s an appetite for a completely new generation to lead the party that could rankle some of Democrats’ most senior members.
The outlet added:
In 2018, Pelosi agreed to a term limit for her speakership. But her office has routinely and repeatedly dismissed questions about her plans or possible succession; Pelosi’s office has said the Speaker is too focused on the midterms to be concerned about her title. “The Speaker is not on a shift. She’s on a mission,” Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill told Vanity Fair. Notably, Clyburn and Hoyer haven’t publicly stated their plans. Hoyer “is proud to have the support of his colleagues and the American people and looks forward to building on this strong record by strengthening our majority and furthering efforts to ensure workers and families have the tools they need to Make It in America,” Margaret Mulkerrin, Hoyer’s communications director, said when contacted for this article. (Clyburn’s office did not respond to a request for comment). If Hoyer or Clyburn make a play for the top job, or even if they make a bid to stay in their current roles, things could get messy quickly. For now, the mystery has led to a monthslong quiet race among some of the party’s budding stars—based entirely on hypotheticals.
“I’m waiting and watching,” Pennsylvania congresswoman Madeleine Dean said when asked about a changing of the guard within the party. “I’m certain there will be, at some point, a lot of change. You see already in the pipeline tremendous talent from folks who are leading us now at different levels,” she said, in reference to the Democrats’ bench and the possibility of a new generation of leadership at the table.
Last year, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo reported that Pelosi may be planning to step down.
During a segment on Fox, Bartiromo said that sources had told her that Pelosi is stepping down after Democrats pass Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
“First, this morning is exclusive, sources tell Sunday Morning Futures there is speculation swirling in Washington that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may step down after getting the massive spending package through,” she said.
“So all those Democrat members who had their arms twisted to vote on the multitrillion-dollar package and put their own reelection in jeopardy may be fuming to learn that the speaker could be planning a cut and run,” she added.