House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House sets up Senate shutdown showdown MORE (D-Calif.) announced Friday that the Democrats’ 2019 leadership races will take place after Thanksgiving, allowing a long window for the dust to settle after midterm elections that could dramatically reconfigure the top of the party next year.
The move takes a lesson from the leadership debate that occurred after the 2016 cycle, when the Democrats were shell-shocked by the ascension of President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE and left stunned that the big gains they’d expected in the House and Senate didn’t materialize.
Amid the turmoil, newer lawmakers clamored for more power and voice within the caucus.
Pelosi and her top lieutenants — Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House Democrats call on leaders to pass supply chain legislation War of words escalates in House MORE (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.) — had led the party for the last 12 years. Pelosi also faced a rare challenge to her long leadership reign from Ohio Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanSenate race in Ohio poses crucial test for Democrats Democrats brace for flood of retirements after Virginia rout Ohio Republicans swing for fences in redistricting proposals MORE. Pelosi won easily, though Ryan’s 63 votes were a sign of growing unrest.
That combination of factors led Pelosi to delay those leadership races to allow an internal debate about the party's strategic path forward.
Anticipating a similar debate this year — as well as a big increase in Democratic seats — Pelosi wants the leadership elections to take place after Thanksgiving, which falls on Nov. 22.
“If the elections were held today, we would win many new seats, putting us into the majority. This would mean more leadership positions, more committee assignments and a large freshman class,” Pelosi wrote Friday in a letter to her members.
“In that vein, I believe it is important that we follow the schedule for leadership elections that the caucus set last cycle, allowing additional time for freshmen to get oriented. My recommendation to the caucus would be to set leadership elections sometime after Thanksgiving, at a date to be determined by the caucus.”
The letter arrives as the debate over Democratic leadership is heating up following last month’s shocking primary defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the caucus chairman, to a young democratic socialist with no political experience.
Crowley was viewed by many Democrats as the successor to Pelosi at the top of the party, and his surprise loss has reinvigorated the discussion about how the party can best win back the House in November — and who should lead it into a crucial 2020 presidential cycle.
The common sentiment remains that the outcome of the midterm elections will be the single largest factor shaping the party’s leadership slate next year.
“Until the day after the election, all of the discussion is for naught,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “After the election, every phone call that can possibly be made within a 24 hour period will be made.”
The House is scheduled to be in Washington for four weeks after the Nov. 6 elections — one week before Thanksgiving and three weeks afterward. The session is slated to end on Dec. 13.