WASHINGTON (AP) — Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats opposing her bid to become speaker have discussed new rules that would likely limit party leaders to three two-year terms, people familiar with the talks said Tuesday. The proposal, if adopted, could well restrict Pelosi to just two more years atop her party.
The plan represents a narrowing of a package Democrats had considered that also would have restricted the number of years lawmakers could serve as House committee chairs. The idea of curbing the power of seniority has encountered blistering criticism from long-time lawmakers and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, several of whose members are in line to lead committees.
The talks come as Pelosi, D-Calif., seeks to whittle down the handful of fractious Democrats who want to derail her drive to regain the speaker’s post she held from 2007 until January 2011. She is the only woman to have held the job. She will need a majority — probably 218 votes — when the full House elects its speaker when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3.
Democrats describing the plan said no agreement was yet final, and it was unclear how many critics’ votes it could win over for her. Depending on the final size of their House majority next year — a handful of races have yet to be called — Pelosi will be able to lose only around 16 Democrats, assuming all Republicans oppose her.
Party rebels say it’s time for Pelosi and her two top lieutenants, No. 2 leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and No. 3 leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, to step aside and make room for a new generation. Pelosi, 78, has led House Democrats since 2003 while Hoyer, 79, and Clyburn, 78, have also led for years.
Pelosi has so far refused to specify when she might relinquish the speakership if elected, saying that would diminish her deal-making clout with President Donald Trump.
Under the proposal, prior terms as leaders while Democrats had the majority would count. That could well mean Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn would have one term left as leaders.
They could win a fourth term but by a supermajority vote, perhaps a two-thirds margin. Several Democrats said that seemed unlikely at a time when ambitious rank-and-file members are eager to ascend the leadership ranks.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., Congressional Black Caucus chairman, criticized the proposal. He said party leaders are “people who’ve earned it” and added, “I don’t see what problem we’re trying to fix.”
The proposal was described by two Democrats speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Clyburn said in a brief interview that the description was accurate.
A spokesman for Pelosi declined to comment.
The talks have involved Pelosi and critics led by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.
Democrats said they would consider whether to clamp term limits on committee chairs early next year.