“Honestly, their job is to help us make this transition and help us make a succession plan. I don’t want it to be the kind of thing people are afraid to say because” the spokesman is still in power and I don’t want to invade her, “said Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), who supported Pelosi and says she wants to have a caucus-wide discussion about her successor.
For her part, Pelosi has said publicly and privately that it is up to the caucus to elect its leaders and that it has no intention of choosing a successor.
“I don’t think anyone should be considered the heir to this seat,” added Wild, who is entering her second term.
In public, most Democrats insist that they focus on the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and look to Pelosi’s leadership to bolster his agenda – more Covid relief, in particular – through a tightly divided house. But privately, Democratic lawmakers and aides admit they are already adjusting to the inevitable tensions that could arise between the most powerful speaker of her life and the Democrats’ audition to replace her and her longtime MPs.
Democrats are already closely watching the small squad of their peers whose names have been revealed for the top jobs, including Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries, former Black Caucus chair Karen Bass and House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff as spokespersons. Vice spokeswoman Katherine Clark, vice chairman Pete Aguilar, and progressive caucus chair Pramila Jayapal are also mentioned for senior positions.
Nobody has publicly confirmed possible ambitions – to do so would be considered taboo within the caucus. But all of them have advantages that could help them move forward when there is a leadership vacuum above.
Jeffries (D-N.Y.) And Clark (D-Mass.) Both have prominent leadership positions that provide them with experience, fundraising skills, and a built-in base of support. Schiff (D-Calif.) Is a fundraiser and a close ally of Pelosi. Bass, D-Calif. Has experience as a speaker in the California State Assembly and former leader of the influential Congressional Black Caucus.
Aguilar is on the leadership and a popular member of the Hispanic Caucus of Congress. and Jayapal has recently successfully attempted to cement the progressive power behind her as the head of the CPC, although some have questioned her base of support beyond the liberals.
When asked whether the attention of the caucus is already on the next leadership competition, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) Quipped: “Of course we are politicians, that’s all we do.”
Many Democrats aren’t sure if Pelosi will surrender the gavel in 2022, though the California Democrat publicly committed to only two more terms in 2018 to get the votes she needed to reclaim the speaker’s hammer.
Several Democrats said they could see a scenario where the three current House leaders – Pelosi, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) And Jim Clyburn (DS.C.) – will try to stay if their party controls it House, Senate and White House. Others predicted that if Democrats lost the house in 2022, it would trigger an automatic power switch.
Hoyer, not shy of being a spokesman one day and, like Clyburn, standing on the limits of tenure, has been cited as a potential “bridge” to a new generation of leaders if Pelosi leaves. However, others say the most likely scenario is that the top three executives, all in their eighties, are vacant at the same time.
In private gatherings, lawmakers and aides say Pelosi has given no indication of her schedule or considerations about her departure, despite publicly indicating that she will be leaving after that term. And several Democrats predicted that if Pelosi chooses to leave, she will do it on her terms and it will come as a surprise to most.
“I know there is a lot of talk about this being Mrs. Spokeswoman’s last term, but I don’t know that this is a fact. Honestly, by the time I hear that, my voice is with her,” said Bass, den named some Democrats as a possible speaker after publicly viewing her as cabinet leader and vice president for Biden.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Another Pelosi ally, said he interpreted her comments to mean that she would be leaving in two years and expected candidates to position themselves for top positions soon.
“I think people know that there will be new leadership in two years and understand that. She was pretty open about it,” said Khanna. “I think it will be a wide field.”
However, some Democrats say they hope to avoid the kind of ubiquitous public jockeying that could distract their caucus, especially if their majority is at stake in the next cycle.
“She still has to rule, we need her to be strong. I would suggest that those who want to succeed or rise in the leadership take it easy, do it behind the scenes, “said Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Adding:” The elections here start early. “
All of this will play out as the Democrats defend a daunting voting card and tackle long-simmering ideological ills, largely suppressed during President Donald Trump’s presidency – a unifying enemy and a distracting political force.
Over the next two years, Pelosi will have to appease the two rival factions of their caucus: progressives, who are more encouraged after high-profile victories in November, and moderates, who have only become more hideous as their ranks exhausted.
So far, Pelosi has appeased both, with every progressive and all but five moderates supporting them for Speaker’s Sunday. This included MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) Who has publicly called for a change of guard in the leadership but praised Pelosi’s ability to maneuver her large tenting party.
“She is widely recognized in the House as a tactician and her ability to consolidate a caucus that is very difficult to bring together,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview, declining to speak about the future race for speakers so early on Congress.
These inner-party clashes already take place in the opening week of the new congress. Moderates and progressives argue over the leadership’s plans to be one of the first votes under Biden to put forward a package of electoral reforms. Moderates have opposed the idea – as the bill contains a measure they dislike when it comes to public funding of campaigns – while progressives insist that the bill must be the bedrock of the democratic agenda.
“I think you see as Spokesman Pelosi recognizes the growing influence of progressives in the Democratic caucus,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones (DN.Y.), one of several new lawmakers on liberal laws like Medicare for All and Green New Push deal.
When asked what he would look for in the next group of executives, Jones said the next speaker could “not have an antagonistic relationship with progressives,” adding he was “open-minded” with the potential candidates.
This balancing act between the many factions of the democratic caucus will also be inherited by the next generation of leaders.
“That is certainly a responsibility I can’t even imagine having to argue,” added Ocasio-Cortez.
Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.