Insurgent Dems amplify push for term limits on party leaders

The group of insurgent House Democrats hoping to restructure the party’s leadership ranks is ramping up their campaign to limit the tenure of both committee chairmanships and leadership posts within the party.

Rep. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterTime to bank the unbanked legal marijuana industry in this nation New push to open banks to marijuana industry Businesses need bank accounts — marijuana shops included MORE (D-Colo.) is a leader of the small but determined group of Democratic rebels fighting to oust Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Coons after Russia probe: House Dems need to use power in 'focused and responsible way' Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.), who’s expected to become the next Speaker. He has been leading the discussions with Pelosi on proposals to cap the number of years a lawmaker could remain at the top of a committee or in the leadership structure. The positions currently have no time limits.

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Aides who spoke with The Hill on Monday indicated the talks are progressing, as Pelosi is scrambling to rally enough support to win back the Speaker’s gavel in the next Congress. The issue of term limits is seen as a potential strategy for winning some of her critics to her side in next month’s floor vote.

An aide said Perlmutter and Pelosi “are talking regularly.” And a Democratic lawmaker familiar with the talks said there’s a growing appetite to adopt the new limits. Meanwhile, some of the insurgent Democrats held a conference call Monday morning to discuss the term limits, a source confirmed to The Hill.

“It is definitely being considered, and there’s a strong push for it,” the lawmaker said. “People think it’s just the freshmen, but there have been people who have been here four, five terms who have made no upward progress in their careers.”

Yet any such change would require the support of the full caucus, meaning Pelosi could not adopt such a reform unilaterally. And while the longtime Democratic leader has said she is “sympathetic” to the notion of establishing term limits, there are powerful voices opposed to the idea.

Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Top Marine warns border deployment could hurt readiness | McSally aims for sexual assault reforms in defense bill | House to vote on measure opposing transgender ban | New warning over F-35 sale to Turkey House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts House to vote on measure opposing transgender military ban MORE (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.) — the second- and third-ranking House Democrats, respectively — are both opposed. And leaders of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which has several members in line to take powerful gavels in the next Congress, as well as some within the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), are also critical of the change.

With that in mind, there is a sense that the insurgents’ lobbying effort will have to expand to include other members of the caucus — particularly the term-limit critics, some of whom have waited years to seize gavels.

Insurgents “will need to broaden their outreach to those others that have equities in the fight, and bring them to the negotiation table, as well,” said a Democratic aide familiar with the conversations.

A former Democratic leadership aide spoke with Pelosi’s office, and left the conversation with the impression that the term limits are “a non-starter.”

“She would lose the CBC and part of the CHC,” the former aide said.

Still, while the Democratic lawmaker acknowledged that members of the CBC have been the fiercest opponents of the idea, the lawmaker believes they are somewhat softening on that position.

“The logic has relaxed a little bit,” the lawmaker said. “People’s commitment to diversity [in Democratic leadership] is so real, you’re going to get diversity regardless.”

“The proposal being kicked around is modeled after the Republicans’,” the lawmaker said, referring to the three-term limits that the GOP imposes on its chairmen.

“This all seems very preliminary,” the member added.

Last month, 16 Democrats signed their names to a letter calling for the ouster of Pelosi, who has led House Democrats since 2003, including a history-making four-year stint as Speaker. Yet Pelosi has made inroads with the insurgent group, winning over the support of two letter-signers — Rep. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsKoch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority Dems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid MORE (N.Y.) and Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchLawmakers blast Wells Fargo chief over response to scandals Justin Amash is the unlikely GOP hero of Cohen hearing Five takeaways from the latest fundraising reports in the lead-up to 2020 MORE (Mass.) — after promising to move early on several proposals high on their legislative wish list. 

Another critic who had signed an early draft of the letter, Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeCongressional Black Caucus faces tough decision on Harris, Booker Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to step down as CBC Foundation chair amid lawsuit Reporter says to expect Capitol Hill to take action on North Carolina's 9th District MORE (Ohio), a former head of the CBC, is also now supporting Pelosi after she was offered a gavel on a voting rights subcommittee.

It’s unclear when the Democratic rule changes would be adopted. The party will likely broach the topic of term limits when the caucus meets in the Capitol on Tuesday morning. But the timeline for adopting a broader package of rules reforms is still up in the air. The deadline for adopting the package is Jan. 3.

It’s likely that some of the insurgents will not be convinced to join Team Pelosi, even if the term limits were adopted, and not everyone in the group is involved in the ongoing talks. Rep. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaHow Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others New Dem caucus chairman: Some wall is good, but not new wall Border lawmakers press Trump to beef up existing security MORE (D-Texas), for instance, said Monday that he’s “not part of those discussions.”

Melanie Zanona contributed.