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Pelosi, Dem rebels near deal on term limits for party leaders

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-Calif.) is closing in on a deal with some of her fiercest Democratic critics to support term limits for party leaders — a move that would likely pave the way for her to clinch the Speaker’s gavel in January.

The tentative agreement, which was first reported by Politico on Tuesday night, would involve Pelosi publicly supporting a caucus rule to impose a three-term limit on the top three members of Democratic leadership, according to sources familiar with the matter. The deal was about “98 percent” of the way done, one source added.

"There are various conversations going on about a path forward," an aide for Pelosi said. "Progress has been made and the conversations are constructive because all involved care about the institution of the House of Representatives."

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Under the proposal, if leaders want to run for a fourth term, they would need the support of two-thirds of the Democratic conference — a much higher threshold than the simple majority currently required in conference.

The term limits would also apply retroactively, meaning Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package MORE (D-Md.), and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) would all be term-limited after 2020, unless they ran for another leadership post or sought a fourth term.

Such a dramatic rule change would have to win approval from the conference, but under the tentative deal, Pelosi would agree to apply the term limits to herself regardless. That means the latest Pelosi can stay on as Speaker is 2022, if she is able to secure a fourth term.

The agreement is expected to win over at least five Democratic holdouts: Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonLawmakers want Pentagon, DOJ to punish current, former military members who participated in riot House chairman endorses Michele Flournoy for Biden's Pentagon chief Trump critic: I am not afraid of Trump MORE (Mass.), one of the ringleaders who organized a conference call Tuesday morning to talk about the tentative agreement; Rep. Linda Sánchez (Calif.), a member of leadership; Rep. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterColorado governor, spouse test positive for COVID-19 Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (Colo.); Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterLawmakers grill NSA on years-old breach in the wake of massive Russian hack Hillicon Valley: WhatsApp delays controversial privacy update | Amazon hit with antitrust lawsuit alleging e-book price fixing | Biden launches new Twitter account ahead of inauguration Illinois Democrat calls for new committee focused exclusively on information technology MORE (Ill.); and Rep. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaLobbying world COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday Democrats try to draft Cardenas to run campaign arm after disappointing night MORE (Texas).

The detractors had been demanding generational change in the leadership ranks and insisted that Pelosi publicly commit to when she plans to step down as Speaker, but the longtime Democratic leader refused to “lame duck” herself by naming her end-date. The emerging deal appears to be a compromise between the two sides.

But there was already fierce pushback — including from Pelosi’s top deputies and some members of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus — to the idea of term limits as early reports about the deal started to surface on Monday and Tuesday.

“She’s not negotiating for me,” Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said tersely during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Mike Lillis contributed.