Pelosi era winds down as GOP flips house, Democrats seek change

(Bloomberg) — Nancy Pelosi’s historic run as speaker will come to an end with the unexpectedly narrow loss of the Democrat majority in the U.S. House, a change of power that will reignite pressure on her to lead a new generation of leaders. to take over the party.

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Pelosi, 82, has been the leader of the Democratic 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 grip on the top spot was tested even before the midterm elections as centrists and progressives alike championed change.

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

“The fact is that every decision to start running is a matter of family and also of my colleagues. 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 the vicious attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi, in their home by a hammer-wielding assailant on Oct. 28 would be a factor in her plans. But she has also said she will always have an influence on the Democrats in the House, whether she is their leader or not.

Pelosi still has broad support among those Democrats, and the party’s better-than-expected performance in the interim, when it was expected to lose as many as 25 seats, has only added to its prestige.

“Everyone is giving her a wide berth,” Washington State Representative Rick Larsen said Tuesday. “No one works harder than Nancy Pelosi.”

President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have both encouraged her to stay. Pelosi praised her party in a statement Wednesday evening for “exceeding expectations” in the election.

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

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

Meeting with reporters in late September, Hoyer brushed aside questions about Pelosi’s promise in late 2018 to abide by a term-limit agreement with some caucus members to step down as leader 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’ll answer for myself.

The Republican takeover “essentially guarantees a leadership change,” said Joshua Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute of Governmental Affairs.

New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries, 52, is widely regarded as Pelosi’s heir apparent. He has served as the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus since 2019 and has also taken on other leadership roles, most notably as one of seven House executives 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. 4 House Democrat, and Washington State Representative Pramila Jayapal, 57, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Much of the demand for change has come from the Democrats who were elected in the 2018 midterm elections and as such were instrumental in giving Pelosi the chance to return to the speakership.

“I think we definitely need a lot of new voices in leadership. It’s been 20 years,” Representative Abigail Spanberger, who was part of that 2018 wave, said during an election campaign in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “Issues have changed, policies have changed, Congress has changed.”

Re-elected last week, Spanberger declined to support Pelosi as speaker in 2019 and 2021.

Pelosi has often deflected questions about whether she will abide by the agreement with the troubled House Democrats to step down as leader at the end of this congressional term.

“Yes, we need a generation change. Of course we do,” Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC last month. “But in some cases, there’s no substitute for experience.”

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

Pelosi, a master legislative tactician, was elected speaker again in January 2019 after leading Democrats to majority in the 2018 midterm elections under Trump. However, to secure the role, she had to agree to a term limit of factions within her caucus and commit not to seek the gavel or top House party post after the term 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 who was first elected to Congress at age 47, then by the climbed party ranks and eventually rose to the speakership. .

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

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

More recently, in her tricky caucus, she managed to pass large parts of Biden’s economic agenda, including last year’s bipartisan infrastructure act and this summer’s Inflation Reduction Act, which included historic investments in climate programs. Despite the outcry from Beijing, she reaffirmed her aggressive stance on China this summer by visiting Taiwan this summer.

Her challenges included guiding Congressional responses to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing investigation into the January 2021 attack on the Capitol.

–With help from Mackenzie Hawkins.

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

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