In a deal designed to pull just enough Democratic “rebels” over the line to ensure Nancy Pelosi’s election as Speaker in January, she’s reportedly near an agreement on a term-limit proposal that would “cap” her hold on the gavel at four years. Politico has the story:
The idea is part of a broader deal being floated that would limit the time all House Democratic leaders can serve, including Pelosi’s two longtime lieutenants, Reps. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and James Clyburn of South Carolina …
Under the terms of the deal, Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn would be able to serve three terms with an option for a fourth term if they can win the support of two-thirds of the caucus, according to multiple Democratic sources. The effect would be retroactive, meaning the two terms the trio ruled in the majority from 2007 to 2011 would count against their tenure.
So if Democrats hold onto the House in 2020, Pelosi and her lieutenants would step down at the end of 2022, when Pelosi and Clymer will be 82, and Hoyer will be 83. If Republicans take back the House in 2020, however, the Pelosi gang would, in theory, be able to hang around until such time as they registered two more years in the majority.
There are two tricky things about this proposed deal. One is that Hoyer and Clymer reportedly aren’t jazzed about it. The other is that it is closely associated with the more controversial idea, which the anti-Pelosi “rebels” are also promoting, of term limits on committee chairmanships. Republicans introduced that kind of term limit way back in 1995, but House Democrats have until now refused to go along, mostly because of strong opposition from the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members are finally achieving enough seniority to claim gavels largely denied to them in the past. So the leadership term-limits idea will probably be separated from broader limits on seniority:
Pelosi and her detractors are also considering a plan to impose term limits on committee chairs, but that part of the deal is still fluid, according to Democratic sources with knowledge of the talks. A deal on term limits for committee chairs could be agreed to separately and at a later date.
Or not at all.
To some extent, the deal, if it happens, is a face-saving measure for the once-formidable anti-Pelosi crowd, which couldn’t find a candidate to run against her in the closed-caucus vote on the leadership, and doesn’t have enough committed votes in the January floor showdown to push her into retirement. The odds were high that Pelosi would have hung it up by 2022 anyway. But now, at least younger aspirants for the leadership will be assured the field will be cleared for them eventually.