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Pelosi agrees to term limits vote; insurgency collapses

Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Biden urges Democrats to advocate for rescue package 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.

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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 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 (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 JeffriesHarris holds first meeting in ceremonial office with CBC members Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Congressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' 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 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 (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) RyanTim Ryan: Prosecutors reviewing video of Capitol tours given by lawmakers before riot Acting chief acknowledges police were unprepared for mob Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (D-Ohio), 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 (D-Colo.), 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 (D-Texas), 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 (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 CummingsBottom line House Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them 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 TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee 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 McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC 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 RiceNY lawmakers agree to strip Cuomo of pandemic-related emergency powers Calls mount for Cuomo to resign The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J vax rollout today; third woman accuses Cuomo 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.”