WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats who have opposed Nancy Pelosi’s effort to become speaker next year want her to commit to limiting how long lawmakers could serve as House party leaders or committee chairs, people familiar with the discussions said Monday.
Should Pelosi, D-Calif., and her foes reach agreement, it could move her toward the support she’ll need when the new House convenes Jan. 3 and votes on its new speaker. So far, she’s encountered a small bloc of Democrats saying they oppose her, in part because they want Pelosi and other long-serving leaders to step aside and give younger lawmakers room to advance.
Negotiations were still underway and it was unclear when an agreement might be reached, said several Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. A spokesman for Pelosi, who currently is House minority leader, declined to comment.
Pelosi led Democrats to an Election Day triumph last month, gaining at least 39 House seats (with several races still unresolved) and winning control of the chamber. Pelosi has led House Democrats since 2003, mostly in the minority, and wants to regain the speaker’s post she held from 2007 until January 2011 as the first woman to hold that job.
As Pelosi tries nailing down the last votes she will need to assure her election, she has resisted explicitly saying how long she would serve. She says that would diminish her clout by making her a lame duck.
But she stopped short of opposing term limits for committee chairman when questioned last week by reporters. She said she’s “always been sympathetic” to the idea and said “that’s a debate” for House Democrats to decide.
A term-limit deal could run into opposition by senior Democrats and some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom are from safe Democratic districts and can accrue years of seniority. The changes would have to be approved by a vote of House Democrats, and then by the full House.
Assuming all House members vote for a specific candidate and all Republicans oppose her, Pelosi will need 218 votes to become speaker. If Democrats have 234 seats — the number they’ve won so far — she could lose no more than 16 Democrats and still prevail.
Sixteen Democrats signed a letter last month opposing her, but she’s been making deals with some opponents to win their support.
Participants say Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who signed that letter, has been a leader in talks with Pelosi.
House Republicans currently limit committee chairs to three consecutive two-year terms, though GOP lawmakers can vote to grant waivers. There are no limits on party leaders.