The Pelosi Era Is Coming to a Close as GOP Flips the House, Democrats Seek Change

(Bloomberg) — Nancy Pelosi’s historic run as speaker will end when Democrats unexpectedly lose their majority in the US House, a power flip that will prompt pressure on her to let a new generation of leaders take over the party.

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Pelosi, 82, has been the Democratic leader of the House for nearly two decades and is the only woman elected speaker, serving in two terms and under four presidents.

But despite her prodigious fundraising prowess and tight control of the caucus, Pelosi’s hold on the top spot was challenged even before the midterm elections as centrists and progressives alike pushed for change.

Pelosi has kept her future plans – including whether she will serve what would be her 19th term representing her San Francisco district – under wraps. On Sunday, Pelosi declined to say whether she would run for caucus leader again in a closed party election this month.

“The reality is that any decision to run is about the family and my colleagues too. What we want to do is move forward in a very united way,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Pelosi has said that the vicious attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi, in their home by a hammer-wielding attacker on October 28 would be a factor in her plans. But she has also said she will always have an impact on House Democrats, whether she is their leader or not.

Pelosi still has broad support among those Democrats, and a better-than-expected performance in the midterms, when she was expected to lose as many as 25 seats, only boosted her prestige.

“Everybody is giving it a wide berth,” Washington State Rep. Rick Larsen said Tuesday. “No one works harder than Nancy Pelosi.”

President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged her to stay. Pelosi, in a statement Wednesday night, praised her party for having “challenging prospects” in the elections.

“House Democrats will continue to play a leading role in supporting President Biden’s agenda — with strong leverage over a slim Republican majority,” she said.

Still, the loss of the majority is likely to spark a broader struggle over control and direction of the party in the House. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, and Majority Leader James Clyburn, 82, may also be under pressure to step aside, although neither has indicated they are ready to give up a leadership position.

In a late September meeting with reporters, Hoyer brushed aside questions about Pelosi’s promise in late 2018 to honor a term-limit deal with some caucus members to step down from the leadership by the end of this term. He said, “We’ll see what she does,” adding: “I think she’s going to have to answer for herself. I will answer for myself.”

“The Republican takeover essentially guarantees a leadership transition,” said Joshua Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s institute of government affairs.

New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries, 52, is widely considered the heir apparent to Pelosi. He has been the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus since 2019, and has also taken on other leadership roles, most notably as one of the seven House managers in the first impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Other Democrats expected to seek leadership roles include Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, 59, who is the No. 1 Democrat. 4 House, and Washington State Representative Pramila Jayapal, 57, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Much of the demand for change came from Democrats who were elected in the 2018 midterms and so they were instrumental in allowing Pelosi to return to the speakership.

“I think we need a lot of fresh voices in leadership. It’s been 20 years,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, who was part of that 2018 wave, at a pre-election campaign event in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “Things have changed, policies have changed, Congress has changed.”

Spanberger, who was re-elected last week, declined to endorse Pelosi for speaker in 2019 and 2021.

Pelosi often deflected questions about whether she would abide by an agreement with moderate House Democrats to step down from the leadership at the end of this Congressional term.

“Yes, we need generational change. Of course we do,” Pelosi said last month in an interview on MSNBC. “But in some cases that doesn’t equate to experience.”

This is Pelosi’s second loss to the majority of the House as speaker, a position that gives her the second according to the presidency. She first became speaker in 2007 and was re-elected in 2009, but lost in 2011 after Republicans, led by the conservative Tea Party movement, won the House majority in the 2010 election.

Pelosi, a master legislative tactician, was re-elected speaker in January 2019 after leading Democrats back to a majority in the 2018 midterm elections under Trump. To land the role, however, she had to bow to pressure for term limits from the factions within her caucus and pledge not to seek a job for the party or the main House party beyond the term that ends in January.

Even as Pelosi enters her final weeks as the top House Democrat, her place in history will go far beyond the barriers she broke as a mother of five first elected to Congress at age 47, then rising through party steps and finally rising to the speech. .

Her career will also be remembered for the often polarizing political battles she waged under four administrations, helping shape some of the most consequential legislation in modern American history, and overseeing both Trump impeachments.

Among her greatest achievements was helping to enact the Affordable Care Act with President Barack Obama. She was also involved in passing the Dodd-Frank Act to reform Wall Street after the recession, as well as the economic stimulus package to help banks and others recover from that financial crisis.

Later, she managed her fractious caucus to pass large parts of Biden’s economic agenda, including last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill and this summer’s Inflation Reduction Act, which included historic investments in programs climate. She also reaffirmed her long-standing hawkish stance on China when she visited Taiwan this summer despite anger from Beijing.

Among her challenges are leading Congressional responses to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing investigation into the attack on the Capitol in January 2021.

–With assistance from Mackenzie Hawkins.

(Updates with Pelosi’s statement, beginning in the ninth paragraph.)

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