Amid Democrats’ contentious negotiations over the bipartisan infrastructure invoice and the reconciliation bundle, the Home speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was in a position to distract Capitol Hill reporters for a couple of minutes along with her use of a sure “C” phrase.
“I simply instructed members of my management that the reconciliation invoice was a fruits of my service in Congress as a result of it was concerning the youngsters,” the Democratic speaker mentioned at a press convention late final month.
Moments after Pelosi made the remark, a reporter famous that “fruits” usually factors to the top of an expertise. “Get out of right here,” Pelosi mentioned to laughs from different reporters.
The trade exemplified Pelosi’s different feedback about her potential retirement: a touch, chased with a heavy dose of uncertainty. Regardless of her earlier guarantees to fellow Home Democrats, it stays unclear whether or not Pelosi will step down as speaker on the finish of this time period.
However one factor is for certain: every time Pelosi does resolve to name it quits, her departure will mark the top of a history-making profession for the primary lady ever to function Home speaker, in addition to the start of a brand new period in Democratic politics.
Pelosi has served as the highest Democrat within the Home of Representatives for almost 20 years, and he or she has given some indications that this time period could also be her final.
After Democrats regained management of the Home in 2018, Pelosi was re-elected as speaker partially by voicing help for a proposal to enact time period limits for the chamber’s prime three management roles. The proposal failed to realize approval, however Pelosi mentioned that she would nonetheless abide by its phrases, which might require her to step down as speaker by the top of 2022.
When a reporter requested Pelosi about that earlier pledge after the elections final yr, the speaker mentioned, “What I mentioned then is whether or not it passes or not, I’ll abide by these limits which can be there.” She added, “I don’t need to undermine any leverage I’ll have, however I made the assertion.”
The priority about shedding leverage if Pelosi is seen as a lame-duck chief could also be why the speaker’s workplace is fast to downplay any hypothesis that she might quickly step down.
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi, mentioned that the speaker was targeted proper now on shepherding the infrastructure invoice and the reconciliation bundle throughout the end line. “The speaker just isn’t on a shift, she’s on a mission,” Hammill mentioned.
And but, some shut observers of Pelosi can not assist however really feel that passage of the reconciliation invoice could be a becoming coda to her decades-long political profession.
Whereas Democrats are nonetheless negotiating over the specifics of the spending bundle, the ultimate invoice is predicted to incorporate an extension of the improved little one tax credit score and funding to increase entry to inexpensive childcare. For a speaker who usually discusses her dedication to enhancing the lives of American youngsters, the invoice appears private to her.
“I sat up when Nancy Pelosi mentioned the reconciliation invoice was the ‘fruits’ of her congressional profession. Almost all people assumes that is her final time period, however that was the primary time I had heard her converse publicly in such a valedictory approach,” mentioned Susan Web page, USA Immediately’s Washington bureau chief and the creator of Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Classes of Energy.
“Muscling via the agenda of one other Democratic president, and a measure with such sweeping penalties, would cap her appreciable legacy.”
Jim Manley, a former senior adviser to the then Senate majority chief, Harry Reid, agreed that Pelosi most likely desires to finish her historic political profession on a excessive word.
“She desires to exit on prime of her recreation. Nothing extra, nothing much less,” Manley mentioned. “She’s not going to be pushed out of the Home on a word of failure. She solely will exit on her personal phrases, and for her, that’s at all times successful.”
And if Pelosi does resolve her time in Congress has come to an finish, a second query instantly comes up in each dialog concerning the speaker: who will succeed her?
Sometimes, that job would fall to one of many speaker’s prime two lieutenants, the bulk chief, Steny Hoyer, and majority whip, Jim Clyburn. Nonetheless, each of them, like Pelosi, are of their early 80s, which has sparked questions on whether or not it could be time for some recent faces to handle the Home Democratic caucus. Pelosi herself has mentioned that she views her second stint within the speaker’s chair as “a bridge to the following technology of leaders”.
“I’m an enormous fan of all of the Home leaders, however they’ve completed a really poor job of dealing with the thought of who’s going to succeed the speaker,” Manley mentioned. “As soon as they work out who’s going to succeed her, that particular person goes to have to determine a technique to work all of the totally different facets of the caucus in addition to she did.”
One of many names most incessantly tossed round as a possible successor to Pelosi is Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the Home Democratic caucus. However Jeffries has been cautious to keep away from public recommendations that he’s angling for the speakership. Late final month, the New York congressman even mentioned he has “by no means thought” about changing into speaker if Pelosi retires, which elicited some eye rolls from the Washington press corps. (A spokesperson for Jeffries declined to remark for this story.)
No matter when Pelosi steps down and who succeeds her, Democrats appear to agree that she can be a troublesome act to observe. Pelosi has confirmed fairly efficient at uniting the assorted factions of her caucus to cross essential laws, together with the Reasonably priced Care Act and now doubtlessly the reconciliation bundle.
Whoever follows in Pelosi’s footsteps must hold the Democratic coalition collectively, and the present speaker has set a excessive normal in that regard. Given Democrats’ slender majority within the Home, Pelosi’s efforts within the coming weeks to cross the reconciliation bundle could also be her most difficult activity but.
“Failing to do this would put a dent in her hard-won popularity as one of many best legislative leaders in American historical past,” Web page mentioned. “Biden has quite a bit at stake on this struggle. So does she.”