Fifth-ranking House Dem doubles down, says it’s time to overhaul leadership

Fifth-ranking House Dem doubles down, says it’s time to overhaul leadership
© Greg Nash

Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) on Wednesday amplified her previous calls for a complete overhaul of House Democratic leadership next year.

Sánchez, the fifth-ranking House Democrat, made waves in October when she called for the top three Democratic leaders — Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiNancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? Pelosi: GOP's 2019 agenda a 'nightmare' for working families, seniors Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ MORE (Calif.), Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint MORE (Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) — “to pass the torch to a new generation” regardless of the outcome of November’s midterm elections.

On Wednesday, Sánchez doubled down on that assertion, saying there’s “a real breadth and depth of talent” that needs room to take the reins of the party.

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“Having the top three leadership of the same generation, I think it’s time for that generational change,” Sánchez told reporters on Capitol Hill. “So I do still stand by that statement that’s it’s time for a generational shift.”

The remarks drew a sharp reply from Pelosi's office.

"House Democrats are focused on winning in November and if you are rowing in the opposite direction, you are only helping Republicans," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in response to Sanchez. 
 
Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn, all in their late 70s, have led the House Democrats for the past 12 years, leading to frustrations among some newer members that there’s simply no room to get into the leadership ranks. Clyburn has said that if the Democrats fail to win control of the House in November, all three should step aside. Both Pelosi and Hoyer, however, have been emphatic that they’re the best suited to lead the party next year.

Sánchez on Wednesday acknowledged the lingering uncertainty surrounding the question of who will lead the party into the 2020 presidential cycle. 

“Whether there’s transition or not remains to be seen,” she said. 

Still, she’s the most prominent Democrat endorsing the idea that the entire leadership team needs rebooting, and she’s leaving no question that she wants to be among those climbing the ladder.

“I want to be part of that transition, because I don’t intend to stay in Congress until I’m in my 70s,” she said. “I want to help create opportunities for some of the new members who have a lot to contribute but don’t necessarily always get the opportunity.”

The comments come as Democrats are still shell-shocked over the defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), who lost his primary last month to a young liberal activist with no political experience. Crowley, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, was seen by many Democrats as the heir apparent to Pelosi, and his defeat has opened up new opportunities for younger, greener Democrats to begin eying the leadership ranks.

Sánchez, for her part, said she is not ready to jump into the race to replace Crowley.

“I think I’d do a good job as chair of the caucus, but I’m not prepared to make a decision,” she said. “I’m still talking with colleagues.” 

She declined to give a timeline for announcing her plans. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeRussia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems Overnight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Dems plan resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen civil war MORE (D-Calif.), who was defeated by Sánchez for vice chairman in a razor-thin vote in 2016, is actively exploring her own run to replace Crowley. Lee has been open about her interest in the post, contacting various media outlets to make her case. But she has also adopted a lower profile than Sánchez in one significant sense: She is not calling for the Democrats’ top brass to step aside.