OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Republicans are all but guaranteed to win control of the U.S. House. As such, rumors continue to swirl that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “expected” to retire or “step back” once the elections are over.
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.”
Clyburn said he is “willing to do anything the caucus thinks is to their benefit,” noting that Jeffries has “referred to me as a mentor.”
“Privately, a number of Democratic lawmakers said @RepJeffries is their best option as Leader of the House following Nancy Pelosi. Because he’s the rare member who’s proficient at both the outside and inside game, skilled enough to carry the message 1/2 pic.twitter.com/0lfUMoMZvw
— silverprincess💛 (@marsha_vivinate) November 14, 2022
A separate report from September alleged 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.
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.
“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.