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 PerlmutterKatherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent Republican lawmaker on decriminalizing marijuana: 'Cat is already out of the bag on that' The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back MORE (D-Colo.) is a leader of the small but determined group of Democratic rebels fighting to oust Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump 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 HoyerOcasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump House Democrats introduce resolution condemning Trump for 'racist' comments Feehery: Trump inspires temporary House Democratic unity 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 HigginsOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (N.Y.) and Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchHillicon Valley: Appeals court rules Trump can't block people on Twitter | Tech giants to testify in House antitrust investigation | DHS set for grilling over facial recognition tech | Commerce to allow sales to Huawei Facebook official responds to Maxine Waters on cryptocurrency project House Democrats call for Facebook to halt cryptocurrency project 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 FudgeNew York bans discrimination against natural hair Democrats already jockeying for House leadership posts Black Democratic lawmaker on Buttigieg: 'Pete has a black problem' 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 VelaBorder Dems introduce bill to process refugee claims in Central America How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others New Dem caucus chairman: Some wall is good, but not new wall MORE (D-Texas), for instance, said Monday that he’s “not part of those discussions.”

Melanie Zanona contributed.