Pelosi Near Deal To Secure Leadership, But It Includes Term Limits

Nancy Pelosi is apparently close to a deal with dissident Democrats that will keep her in power until at least 2022.

Nancy Pelosi is near a deal with rebellious elements within the House Democratic Caucus that would allow her to continue to serve as leader of House Democrats, and as Speaker of the House as long as the party continues to hold a majority in that body, for the next four years:

WASHINGTON — Representative Nancy Pelosi is nearing a deal with dissident Democrats to limit herself to four years as speaker, according to two senior Democratic officials with knowledge of the emerging plan, her most consequential move to date to put down a rebellion in her ranks and clinch the votes she needs to win the gavel in January.

The agreement, which if finalized and adopted would also bind the other three top Democratic leaders, would almost certainly clear the way for Ms. Pelosi, the Democratic leader from California, to reclaim the mantle of first woman to serve in the post that is third in line to the presidency. It would also signal a major shift for Democrats, who despite the striking diversity and demographic shifts within their party, have governed for more than a decade with the same trio at the helm. That trio, Ms. Pelosi, 78, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, 79, and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, 79, must now prepare to cede power to a new generation, even as they move to take the House majority next month.

Ms. Pelosi handily won an internal vote among Democrats this month to be nominated as speaker, a post she held from 2007 to 2011. But a small group of defectors who have agitated for new leadership at the top of the party have been threatening to withhold their votes when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3 for a formal vote on the House floor. Ms. Pelosi would need a majority of those present and voting in the chamber — as many as 218 — to be elected.

The rebels demanded that Ms. Pelosi either step aside or give a date when she would do so, something she had refused to do, arguing that it would weaken her hand as a bulwark against President Trump.

Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, a member of the group, has been leading private discussions with Ms. Pelosi and other colleagues about a compromise wherein she would agree to a four-term limit — eight years — that would apply retroactively, taking into account the two terms she already served as speaker.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Perlmutter could not be reached for comment. An aide to Ms. Pelosi, speaking on condition of anonymity, would say only that productive conversations about a path forward are occurring.

The agreement would also apply to the other three top Democratic leaders: Mr. Hoyer, who is in line to be the majority leader; Mr. Clyburn, who is set to be the whip; and Representative Ben Ray Luján, the assistant Democratic leader.

Under the agreement being discussed, which was first reported by Politico, the four leaders would be limited to three two-year terms, with the possibility of a fourth if they could garner the support of two-thirds of the Democratic Caucus. Given that Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Clyburn, all in their 70s, have already served two terms in the top three posts, it would put a hard cap on their tenures, forcing them out of their posts by 2022.

While Pelosi was re-elected leader of the Democratic Caucus two weeks ago, the margin of victory was insufficient to give her the 218 votes necessary to win the Speakership on the first ballot on the House floor. While this would not have meant that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy would become Speaker in January, it would have thrown the race for Speaker into a second ballot for the first time in recent memory, a development that would have been an embarrassment and would have weakened Pelosi’s hand in future negotiations with Republicans in the Senate and President Trump. Given that, it was important for Pelosi to reach some kind of accommodation with those elements of the Democratic Caucus who have objected to the idea of the leadership of the Caucus remaining in the same hands it has been for at least the past twelve years and who have called for younger members to be given the chance to advance in a leadership that has remained remarkably moribund for an extended period of time. Assuming that this plan is accepted, it would provide Pelosi with a clear path to victory in January and a sufficient concession to the rebellious members of the caucus who have objected to the status quo.

To some extent, of course, Pelosi most likely helped her standing among her fellow Democrats with the meeting she had yesterday with President Trump, Vice-President Pence, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a meeting at which the President largely beclowned himself during a televised debate among the three about Trump’s border wall. By all accounts, including even the admission of many Republican and conservative pundits, Pelosi walked away from that meeting having appeared to get the best of a President who appeared to be more and more unhinged as the fifteen-minute public portion of the meeting went on. Even that performance, though, wasn’t enough to stave off the necessity of the deal that has been reached with dissident Democrats. Assuming this deal is acceptable, this will smooth the path for Pelosi going forward and would keep her in power until at least 2022. At that point, Pelosi and her fellow members of the leadership will be in their eighties and most likely looking to retire anyway. From that perspective, this agreement will be helpful for Democrats since it will allow them to prepare for an inevitable new class of leaders in the future.

FILED UNDER: Congress, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Teve says:

    Good deal.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Seems like a good deal. In general I am in favor of term limits.

    SDNY has just put out a release stating that AMI, the parent company of the Nat’l Enquirer, paid Karen MacDougal $150K for the principal purpose of preventing her story from (negatively) influencing the campaign of Individual-1.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    This might be the best of all possible worlds. Some of the renegades originally demanded she agree to limit herself to one term, which would have made her a lame duck from day 1 and damaged her ability to negotiate, and therefore weaken the Dems position substantially. It was a stupid thing to ask for and displayed a naiveté. And it when it became apparent they had no plan B, it cemented my impression of them as losers.

    But even at the time I agreed with one of their complaints, something that was also widely agreed by many Dem House Reps. She and her leadership have not done enough to bring in new blood. If anything, this gives her more negotiating power in that first term, because the surest way to take her place is to have her blessing. I wouldn’t be surprised if she bowed out after the first term, or after the first session of her second term.

  4. Gustopher says:

    I don’t like having the entire leadership term limit out at the same time, or even very roughly the same time. This doesn’t seem like a great deal to me.

    Now, something that applies the term limits to N of the top four, selected by rolling a four sided die… starting with one roll this term, and then increasing the number of times the die is rolled by one every two years… that would give us some continuity, but ensure new blood in the leadership. And it would give us a dramatic die roll.

    Plus, we don’t just want skilled and experienced leadership, we want lucky leadership.

  5. Jen says:

    Sounds fair enough to me. Hopefully, some will step down earlier. I share Gustopher’s concerns about jettisoning all of leadership at once and I think it makes sense to gradually move others into leadership spots.

    It all looks far easier than it is to actually hold these positions and be successful at it.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And who follows Nancy??????????????????????????? I mean????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    This is just so much posturing for the imagined middle that probably doesn’t even know who Nancy Pelosi is. A bunch of gutless lying weasels deciding that Republican demonization of a DEM politician should be the deciding factor in DEM leadership.

    Tell me something: If I said that Mitch McConnell was a traitor to his country, who shit on the constitution in a blatant play to rig the courts, acceded to Russian interference in our elections and gave cover to a narcissistic, self admitted assaulter of women and proud racist head of an ongoing criminal enterprise….

    Who here would expect the GOP to throw him out of the Senate?

    This is not to say that DEMs should not prepare for the future, they should. But can somebody, anybody, say who the future might be? Just might be????


    And so we decapitate our leadership and hope something half as effective shows up before it’s too late.

  7. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:


    I don’t like having the entire leadership term limit out at the same time, or even very roughly the same time. This doesn’t seem like a great deal to me.

    It’s a great deal. Both Hoyer, Clyburn and Pelosi are almost octogenarians. A change in leadership could be great – you could have younger leaders(And maybe a Black or Hispanic among them) that could be used as surrogates in Red Districts.

    Part of the problem for the Seth Moulton gang is that Republicans used Pelosi to scare White voters while Hoyer or even Clyburn could not be used to energize Democratic voters.

  8. de stijl says:

    The D group that challenged Pelosi were to the Right of her.

    She can count votes, and whip votes. She made Obamacare the law of the land.

    Yeah, she’s old – a full year and n months older than Mitch McConnell (when was the last time you heard that McConnell was too old to lead?). Hence the self-imposed term limit.

    She is not infallible or perfect, but she is Nancy Smash. Whoever succeeds her owes a debt.

    The Rs hate her and made her *the* focal point of many congressional races in the last election because she is effective. (Psst! And because she’s a shrewish, harpy female and she’s from godless, sodomite San Francisco.)

    Can you name one D candidate that ran against McConnell (rather than his / her opponent)?

    Because hundreds of R candidates essentially ran against Pelosi “and her liberal agenda!!!”[scary black and white visual of Pelosi superimposed over local D candidate du jour]

  9. de stijl says:

    @One American:

    “we have to pass this bill to see what’s in it “(garbage like her district).

    Do you see!?

    The concept of Nancy Pelosi is so alien to them they cannot help but to offer the sacramental (out of context) quote and diss SF and the people who live there.

    Pelosi is like ipecac to a Republican true believer.

  10. James Pearce says:

    Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, a member of the group, has been leading private discussions with Ms. Pelosi and other colleagues about a compromise wherein she would agree to a four-term limit — eight years — that would apply retroactively, taking into account the two terms she already served as speaker.

    Good job, Ed. If we must have Pelosi as speaker, and it appears we must, then at least put an end-date on it so that as some point in our lives –not now, but you know, years from now– another Democrat can take the post.

  11. mattbernius says:

    @de stijl:
    Agreed, that was the perfect coda to your point.

    Almost too perfect…

    J’accuse! You’ve been One American this entire time.

  12. Tyrell says:

    @de stijl: I have had high respect for Mrs. Pelosi. She is a good person and has experience. Away from her job she has charm and common sense. She has done her time. A better role would be at a university, or a tv spot selling watches or coffee makers.
    There need to be some stipulations; such as she has to stay away from chalkboards. She has to read out loud every bill in the House before it is voted on. No more of this “we will read after we pass it” nonsense that got us the “Affordable Health Care Act” fiasco (it’s not affordable, and it’s not health care).
    From some of the statements Nancy has made in the last year, it seems her transmission might be slipping. She needs to spend some time down at Malibu.
    “It’s just crazy” Bill Clinton on the government health care insurance.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    And Bill Clinton is right; what the Republicans have done with the health care insurance problem is “just crazy” because of their lack of planning for action after regaining power. It’s almost like they never had a plan/desire to improve access to health care coverage in the first place.

  14. Neil Hudelson says:


    From some of the statements Nancy has made in the last year, it seems her transmission might be slipping. She needs to spend some time down at Malibu.

    Buddy, you routinely call for the return to power of Senators who have been dead for decades.You’re a walking billboard for dementia, so let’s not get too wrapped up in labeling the color of pots and kettles, eh?

  15. MarkedMan says:

    I just want to second the idea that reacting in any way to Republicans tried and true “but we are just so tired of this [insert effective Democrat] and just want them to go away”, trope is political suicide. I think the opposite applies too. The Republicans really, really want he Dems to nominate Bernie. There’s a reason for that.

    This is tangential, but frequent readers know I’ve often made the argument that in the decades he has spent in the federal government Bernie has not accomplished one single thing other than belittle the Democrats and conveniently lose all of his tax returns before 2017. Contrast that with someone like Elizabeth Warren, who is not wasting a minute in getting as much done as she can. From a Vox article today:

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is pushing three big ideas — cracking down hard on DC lobbying, giving workers more of a say in how corporations operate, and creating 3 million new affordable housing units — and now she has found partners for all of them among key House Democrats.

    This week, Warren and House Democratic members introduced two of her sweeping bills in the House — the Accountable Capitalism Act, and the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act — to complement ones she has already introduced in the Senate. Her third bill, a broad anti-corruption bill called the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, was introduced in the House a few weeks ago.

    Could you even remotely imagine Bernie getting his hands so dirty as to fraternize with House members?

  16. bookdragon says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Ageism + sexism is a thing. You won’t hear anyone complain about the ancient white dudes leading the GOP, but an *old woman* – gasp! – she needs to step aside to let younger (and Y-chromosome possessing) people rise.

    Snark aside, there do need to be successors in place. Crowley had been the planned successor, but AOC changed that. Still I don’t think Dems are actually lacking for talent ready to step up. Ted Lieu, for example, is in the next line of leadership (Pelosi appointed him as Assistant Whip in 2017) and if you saw the master level trolling of Steve King during the questioning of Google’s CEO, it’s clear he could step up and be effective. Linda Sanchez is also in that next line of leadership and has a good personal story and several terms of experience under her belt. There are others if you take a look at the House, including some of the new kids once the get some experience and earn their stripes in leadership. For instance, I feel like AOC in some ways has very quietly been taking notes on/from Pelosi while maintaining her ‘progressive outsider’ cred by not outright taking her as mentor. (As well she should – honestly I think Pelosi played this beautifully. She had planned to retire in 2016 if HRC was elected. So this is just putting in place what she wanted anyway while putting her in a stronger position to guide the choice of her successor).

  17. wr says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “And so we decapitate our leadership and hope something half as effective shows up before it’s too late.”

    I think four years is a good amount of time to raise the next generation of leaders. And I suspect pretty strongly that Pelosi is going to be reaching out and elevating a lot of newly elected progressives, and particularly progressive women for that training. Which will not only leave a congressional leadership in her chosen image, but will completely bypass the Tim Ryans and Seth Moultons, leaving them the “forgotten generation.”

  18. de stijl says:


    PPACA has cost less than than the CBO projected and provided health insurance to 23 million Americans who did not have it before. It eliminated lifetime caps, pre-existing conditions exclusions, and junk scam insurance which covered relatively nothing very expensively.

    Go stuff your heartland, faux populist BS. People like you are why we cannot have nice things.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    Everything in life is a tradeoff. Is Nancy Pelosi and her current team effective? Yes. Weighed against this is the fact there are five and six term Congress Critters who have been under the current leadership the entire time. How many more terms before they get a chance at a position of power? With no end in sight, gradually a Senate run or a run for governor looks more attractive, at least if they are capable and strong. And we need at least some of them to stay in the House.

  20. de stijl says:



    I’m busted. I have a burner account which I route through a different IP address where I impersonate a less than fully literate (in English) tribal R authoritarianism aficionado.

  21. de stijl says:


    I mostly replied because I actually do use “J’accuse” in a horrible Pepe LePew accent IRL when the situation warrants.

    I usually have to explain later what that means. But it amuses me.

  22. de stijl says:


    Ageism + sexism is a thing.

    Yup. When was the last time you saw a think piece about McConnell’s approaching mental and physical decrepitude? Yertle the turtle is a full year and half younger than Pelosi, but Mitch is a fine, vital lynch pin of the R establishment.

    Rs do tribal politics better than Ds do.

  23. de stijl says:


    The reason That Rs want Bernie as the next D nominee is that his primary affect is that of a scold.

    Rs know how to run against a perceived scold. (See Clinton, Hillary and Kerry, John.)

    They were utterly befuddled by hopeful, optimistic Obama.

  24. Tyrell says:

    @MarkedMan: I am still waiting on her to support a full and open audit of the powerful and secretive Federal Reserve. Bernie’s not afraid of them.
    “What happened to the $trillions?”

  25. Tyrell says:

    @de stijl: “Affordable Health Care” – Yes, a lot of people got insurance but many were put on a plan that had higher payments, higher deductibles, and higher co-payments, yet less coverage! Other people could not afford the payments, yet did not qualify for the insurance. Then they got hit with a hefty tax penalty for not having insurance – thank you Justice Roberts. Many lost good employment insurance plans because they did not meet some government guidelines.
    One of the big problems with health care today: “people are over medicated, over tested, over doctored”
    Doctors order all these tests with no knowledge of the costs. Test that are redundant and overlapping. All these tests by the specialists – who sees the big picture? And the prescriptions. All have side effects and interactive issues. Who looks at all that when you have multiple specialists?
    “If you like your insurance plan you can keep it” President Obama
    “The stupidity of the American voter” Jonathan Gruber, designer of the AHA.