BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts congressman Seth Moulton says the decision by Rep. Nancy Pelosi to agree to limit her tenure as House speaker to four years will help pave the way for a new class of Democratic leaders.
The deal clears the way for the 78-year-old California Democrat to be elected to the top leadership post for the new Congress — but also hands Moulton and other critics of Pelosi a partial win.
Moulton helped lead the opposition among fellow Democrats to Pelosi’s election as speaker, arguing that it was time for new leadership. Pelosi had previously served as speaker before Republicans seized control of the chamber eight years ago.
Some of those newly elected Democratic members of the House had run in part by pledging to oppose Pelosi. Democrats won enough seats in November’s midterm elections to wrest control of the House from the GOP.
Even as Pelosi began to nail down the votes needed to win the speakership, Moulton continued his opposition. Just two weeks ago, Moulton said he could vote for Pelosi — but only if she and the two top members of her leadership team would agree to step down after a year and hold new elections.
With Pelosi’s pledge on Wednesday to serve no more than four years, Moulton said he could now support her elevation to speaker.
“These conversations have been difficult, but we’re stronger because of them,” Moulton said in a written statement. “My goal has been to have party leadership that reflects the new generation of Democrats in our country and represents the people who voted for change on Election Day. With the agreed-upon measures, we will do that.”
Pelosi has dismissed suggestions that she weakened her leadership with the deal.
“What, four years? No, I don’t think that’s a lame duck,” she told reporters Thursday. The House votes on its new speaker on Jan. 3.
While Moulton repeatedly said his opposition to Pelosi wasn’t personal — he has drawn both criticism and calls for a primary challenge in two years.
Among the critics was Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. In a Nov. 21 tweet, Ocasio-Cortez characterized the challenges to Pelosi as part of “an apparent effort to make the party even more conservative and bent toward corporate interests” — a tweet Moulton called “offensive.”
The two newest incoming members of the Massachusetts delegation — Democrats Ayanna Pressley and Lori Trahan — are supporting Pelosi.
Moulton wasn’t the only member of the state’s all-Democratic delegation with reservations about electing Pelosi to another term as speaker.
Rep. Stephen Lynch also held back, but relented earlier in the month — before Pelosi announced her self-imposed term limit.
Lynch said Pelosi had assured him that the priorities of average working families will be the priorities of the upcoming Congress.
“In the recent past, working class Democrats have felt that they were taken for granted in our party and candidate Donald Trump exploited that perception,” Lynch said in a statement.
It wasn’t the first time that Moulton — who represents the state’s 6th Congressional District — has challenged a longtime member of his party. The Iraq War veteran first won election to the House in 2014 by defeating incumbent Rep. John Tierney.
During the midterms, Moulton worked to help elect other Democratic veterans to the House.
He said the opposition to Pelosi and her leadership team was an acknowledgement that Democrats have to work harder to evolve — and to welcome new, younger leaders instead of relying just on seniority.
“The leaders of our caucus will no longer be determined by tenure and loyalty but by frequent and open elections, giving us a better chance to change and evolve as the country does,” Moulton said in his statement. “They will also incentivize those in power to build our bench, something our party has struggled with for years.”