WASHINGTON — Nancy Pelosi announced on Wednesday that she will step down as top Democrat in the House by 2022 in a deal with Democratic lawmakers pushing for generational change. The deal secures her the votes she needs to become speaker of the House in January.
The term-limits proposal, if passed by a majority of Democratic members, would require that all three senior leadership members step aside after serving three terms. They could serve a fourth term with two-thirds' support of the Democratic caucus, but because it would apply retroactively, the upcoming Congress would be Pelosi’s third term as leader.
“Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new Members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus,” Pelosi said in a statement. “I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not.”
Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, became the top Democrat in the House in 2003 and the first woman speaker of the House in 2007. Whip Steny Hoyer (who earlier this week told reporters he does not support term limits) has served as the number two Democrat since 2003, and Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn has been the third-highest-ranking Democrat since 2006. Hoyer and Clyburn would also be subject to the new term limits
Pelosi’s commitment was enough to secure her the votes of several Democratic holdouts. In a joint statement sent by Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Bill Foster, Linda Sanchez, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Filemon Vela, and incoming Rep. Gil Cisneros, who were all originally noes on Pelosi as speaker, the lawmakers committed to supporting her in the upcoming Jan. 3 floor vote.
“We wish to thank Nancy Pelosi for her willingness to work with us to reach this agreement," they said. "We are proud that our agreement will make lasting institutional change that will strengthen our caucus and will help develop the next generation of Democratic leaders. We will support and vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House in the 116th Congress.”
The Democrats who have decided to support Pelosi after all have long been calling for a new generation of leadership. Younger Democrats have been frustrated with the tendency among their party to prioritize experience, leaving them to wait their turn or find opportunities elsewhere.
The deal will also free up new Democratic House members who promised to vote against Pelosi on the campaign trail to stand by their promise.
Pelosi, who was the only lawmaker to run for the position of speaker, has been working steadily toward locking in the votes she needs on the floor (218, a majority) since the midterms.
Before Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, the only Democrat publicly considering challenging Pelosi, even announced a bid, Pelosi staved off her challenge in a deal where Fudge was named a subcommittee chair. She also won over New York Rep. Brian Higgins in another deal, ahead of securing the caucus’s nomination. But Wednesday’s deal is by far the most significant, not only in the number of votes that it secured but in that it included some of her most outspoken critics.
Pelosi’s announcement comes on the heels of a chaotic White House meeting where President Donald Trump said she was "in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now" because she was working to become the next speaker of the House.
“Please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory," Pelosi responded.