With Republicans favored to regain the House in November’s midterm
elections, talk on Capitol Hill has turned to the future of Speaker Nancy
Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team.
Rumors have swirled for weeks that Pelosi, who turns 82 in March, will
leave Congress at the end of this term — especially if Democrats receive
the walloping forecast by most polls.
GOP lawmakers and operatives insist that President Biden’s plummeting
approval ratings, announcements by at least 24 Democratic lawmakers that
they will not seek reelection, and historical precedent that the party
controlling the White House often loses congressional seats in midterms
augurs that a “red wave” is coming this fall.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has made hay of the
whispers, repeatedly referring to Pelosi as a “lame duck Speaker” on
social media and during press conferences.
However, multiple Democratic sources say that a large midterm loss is not
inevitable. They note that 11 of the 16 House Democrats who have announced
they would rather retire than seek another two-year term are in their 70s
and 80s, suggesting they are motivated by other factors than dread of at
least two years in the minority. (Four other departing House Democrats are
running for the US Senate, while another four are seeking other office.)
One Democratic source also pointed to grudging praise recently offered by
former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a indicator that Pelosi’s powers
over her caucus have not yet faded.
“She has been amazingly effective for a very long time,” Gingrich told
“Fox & Friends” Monday. “She survived losing the Congress [in 2010], came
back as the minority leader, got to be Speaker again, and with a tiny
majority, she accomplished things I didn’t — as a former Speaker, I didn’t
think were possible. So, you at least technically have to have a real
respect for her professionalism, her toughness, the degree to which she
owns the House Democratic Party. When she leaves, there will be a big
But not every Democrat is so optimistic about the party’s chances.
“I believe if Democrats (miraculously) retain a majority in 2023, she’ll
stick around for one more Congress,” one lawmaker told The Post. “If not,
I suspect she’ll defer to a new generation of leadership.”
Pelosi — who was first elected to Congress in 1986 and will have served 20
years as the House Democratic leader when votes are cast in November —
agreed to a term limit on her leadership tenure as part of a deal struck
in 2018 as she sought to ward off a leadership coup and retain her gavel.
However, it is unclear whether the agreement would hold if she opts to run
If and when Pelosi does leave the House stage, multiple lawmakers tell The
Post they see House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) as the
frontrunner to take her place, with Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-
Mass.) another viable contender.
Two sources noted that if Pelosi vacates her position at the end of this
Congress, it’s possible she’ll be followed by House Majority Leader Steny
Hoyer (D-Md.), who turns 83 in June, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn
(D-SC), who will turn 82 in July. That, in turn, could give more younger,
left-leaning Democrats the opportunity to rise in the party’s House
Michael Hardaway, Jeffries’ former head of communications, told The Post
that choosing a successor won’t be easy for Democrats, but he feels there
is plenty of talent to work with when the time comes.
“Nancy Pelosi is the most successful Speaker in the history of this
nation,” he said. “No one can fill her shoes. Fortunately for Democrats,
they have a deep bench of talent that includes David Cicilline [D-RI],
Katherine Clark, [House Progressive Caucus Chair] Pramila Jayapal [D-
Wash.] and, of course my old boss Hakeem Jeffries, who’s developed into
the most talented messenger we have since another guy I worked for named
Allies of Jeffries, 51, have touted him as a young, charismatic leader
that could help bridge the party’s different factions.
“I think Hakeem has the temperament, he has the intelligence, I think he
has the vision and is the perfect bridge between the older and younger
generations,” one member of the Congressional Black Caucus told The Post.
“He is a product of not only Brooklyn, but he — like many, many younger
members of Congress — is connected to hip-hop. And I think that he
understands what it means to be a coalition builder.”
However, Jayapal has expressed skepticism at the notion that an all-
powerful party leader in the mold of Pelosi can still hold total control
over the occasionally fractious conference.
“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,” Jayapal told the Washington Post last week. “It
takes some acceptance of more-decentralized leadership.”
When asked about the retirement rumors, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill
asserted to The Post: “The Speaker is not on a shift, she’s on a mission.”
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Officially made Nancy Pelosi a two-time impeachment loser.
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President Trump boosted the economy, reduced illegal invasions, appointed
dozens of judges and three SCOTUS justices.