Pelosi agrees to term limits vote; insurgency collapses

Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSenators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks On The Money: Shutdown hits Day 24 | Trump touts need for wall in speech to farmers | Poll numbers sag | House Dems push stopgap bills | How the shutdown could harm the economy | TSA absences raise stakes for deal Feehery: Current shutdown impasse is a fight over peanuts MORE (D-Calif.) agreed to a term-limit deal on Wednesday that ensures her election to a second stint as House Speaker — but also makes it certain her Speakership will end after a maximum of four more years.

The decision secures Pelosi the backing of some of her most vocal critics, leaving a crumbled opposition.

ADVERTISEMENT

If approved in a caucus vote next year, it would allow Democrats serving in the top three leadership positions to serve three terms in each of those spots when they hold the majority — with a fourth term possible if the candidate wins two-thirds support of the caucus.

The rule would count the terms served by the top three Democrats when they had the House majority from 2007 to 2011, meaning it would have ramifications for the other two longtime Democratic leaders that have run the caucus with Pelosi — Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: No signs of urgency as shutdown enters fourth week Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal House votes to reopen Interior, EPA as shutdown fight wages on MORE (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.).

Whether the rule is approved or not, Pelosi said she would follow it.

“It is my understanding that Caucus Chair Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesBlack Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority New Dem caucus chairman: Some wall is good, but not new wall Jeffries drops Naughty by Nature reference in nominating Pelosi MORE and incoming Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern plan to bring up this proposal for a discussion and a vote by February 15th.  I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not,” she said in a statement.

The deal had previously been disclosed and ends days of haggling between Pelosi and her detractors.

It was a capitulation for the insurgents, who had vowed to block Pelosi’s rise to the Speakership next year — and claimed to have the numbers to do so. But it also marked a concession for Pelosi, who had said she would never agree to put a cap on her leadership tenure.

Both sides quickly claimed victory: Pelosi, for picking off her opponents and paving the way to retake the Speaker’s gavel she last held eight years ago; and the insurgents, for limiting Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker to a maximum of two terms, thereby clearing a foreseeable path for a younger crop of Democratic lawmakers to take the reins of the party.

“This process has given us the time to choose who we want to be as a party, not let inertia decide for us,” Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonDemocrats must prove they are worthy of their House majority This week: Shutdown showdown looms over new Congress House lawmakers look to reassure Australia after Mattis resignation MORE (D-Mass.) said in a statement.

Before the agreement, at least 20 Democrats were on the record vowing to oppose Pelosi in the Jan. 3 Speaker vote on the House floor — a large enough figure to prevent her from winning the necessary majority to take the gavel next year.

The deal, however, seems to have put Pelosi over the top, bringing with it the backing of at least seven Democratic rebels who have fought for weeks to take her down. That list includes Reps. Moulton, Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanAnti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments House Democrats offer measures to censure Steve King Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy MORE (D-Ohio), Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterThis week: Shutdown showdown looms over new Congress House lawmakers look to reassure Australia after Mattis resignation Term limit fight highlights growing pains for Pelosi’s majority MORE (D-Colo.), Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaNew Dem caucus chairman: Some wall is good, but not new wall Border lawmakers press Trump to beef up existing security Texas lawmaker: Fund ports of entry, not wall MORE (D-Texas), Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterThis week: Shutdown showdown looms over new Congress Dem calls for closing lawmaker gym, sauna during shutdown Pelosi agrees to term limits vote; insurgency collapses MORE (D-Ill.) and Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), as well as Rep.-elect Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.). 

All seven lawmakers were among the 16 Democrats who had endorsed a letter last month calling for an overhaul at the top of the party. The insurgents, at the time, had argued that voters handed the Democrats the House majority in the midterms expecting changes in Washington — beginning with leadership — and the party had better heed that message if they hoped to keep their hold on the chamber in 2020. 

Yet the group had trouble building their numbers — at least publicly — while Pelosi launched a furious outreach campaign designed to scoop up support from each and every Democratic lawmaker who might have been on the fence.  

The lopsided divide infuriated Pelosi’s supporters, who wondered why a small group of insurgents was wagging the overwhelming majority of the caucus. 

“Ninety percent of the Democrats clearly want Pelosi — 90 percent. So, come on. If that were a regular election, it wouldn’t be a contest,” said Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: House Dems launch major drug pricing investigation | Judge blocks Trump contraception rule rollback | Booker tries to shake doubts about pharmaceutical ties ahead of 2020 | FDA to resume high-risk food inspections Overnight Defense: Trump rejects Graham call to end shutdown | Coast Guard on track to miss Tuesday paychecks | Dems eye Trump, Russia probes | Trump talks with Erdogan after making threat to Turkey's economy Dems zero in on Trump and Russia MORE (D-Md.), who’s in line to lead the Oversight and Government Reform Committee next year. “It bothers me that a few people can wield that much power over the 90-plus percent [that supports Pelosi].”

Helping Pelosi’s cause, the insurgent group was never able to field a challenger, allowing Pelosi to skate to an overwhelming 203-32 victor for the Speakership nomination during the closed-door ballot of the Democratic Caucus last month.

Lawmakers said Pelosi also gave herself a big boost on Tuesday with her feisty confrontation with President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Freedom Caucus calls for Congress to work on shutdown through break Democrat previews Mueller questions for Trump’s AG nominee Trump inaugural committee spent ,000 on makeup for aides: report MORE at the White House, where the pair sparred over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall — a major campaign promise of the president that’s anathema to many Democrats. 

Pelosi had made the case that she’s the Democrats’ best negotiator in confronting Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRomney calls on Steve King to resign after comments on white supremacy Don't underestimate the power of nationwide outrage born from financial desperation Top Dem introduces short-term spending bills to reopen government MORE (R-Ky.) in the next Congress. And some of the insurgents agreed.

Vela, who represents a district bordering Mexico, said he was persuaded to back Pelosi partly because of her performance at the White House on Tuesday, and partly because Pelosi had promoted Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) to the assistant Speaker position the same day.

“Two things that happened yesterday kind of helped me along. One was the way she stood up to Trump on the border wall. And, 2, changing Ben Ray’s position to assistant Speaker,” Vela said. “For me, those were two steps in the right direction.”

Vela said another overriding factor was the simple fact that the insurgency was so small, relative to the broader caucus. 

“There is an overwhelming sentiment with other members of the caucus, that just wanted us to move forward,” he said. “Nobody ever pressured me or anything like that. But she’s got 200 votes, right?”

Other Pelosi critics did not share the same enthusiasm, including Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceThe 15 Democrats who voted against Pelosi Live coverage: House elects new Speaker as Dems take charge This week: Shutdown showdown looms over new Congress MORE (D-N.Y.). That group is vowing to continue in their effort to oppose Pelosi on the floor next month. 

The term-limit proposal will not be included in a package of House rules that Democratic leaders are currently cobbling together — a packet that must be adopted by the full House by Jan. 3. 

Instead, the proposed reform will be taken up in February, as part of internal Democratic rules changes. That debate is sure to get heated, as a number of powerful voices within the caucus are fervently opposed to term limits for committee heads or leadership posts. 

Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who will become majority leader in the next Congress, and James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who will become majority whip, have been fiercely opposed to term limits of any kind, arguing they’re simply undemocratic. 

“She’s not negotiating for me,” Hoyer said Tuesday. 

Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are also lining up against the new limitations. 

“I agree with Steny Hoyer,” Cummings said. “People have an opportunity to vote for who they want.”