House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California. (Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg)

Pelosi Nears Speakership After Clinching Deal With Holdouts

(Bloomberg) -- House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is all but assured she’ll have the votes she’ll need to become speaker in January by endorsing a deal with party dissidents to limit the time she’ll stay in the chamber’s top job.

The agreement is a concession to a faction of House Democrats who’ve been pushing for younger members to move into leadership after more than a decade under Pelosi and her team. Pelosi vowed to stand by the agreement -- which would keep her in the top job for no more than four years -- even if it’s not formally adopted by Democratic lawmakers.

Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, one of the leaders of the opposition to Pelosi, said the deal will help the party in the future and made a pitch for unity. Several other Pelosi critics said they would vote to elect Pelosi as House speaker when Democrats take control.

“Now it’s time to move forward as one,” Moulton said in a statement. “Nancy Pelosi showed real leadership by agreeing to these reforms.”

Although Pelosi had resisted setting a firm limit on her time as Democratic leader, she described herself Wednesday “as a bridge to the next generation of leaders.”

Some her top lieutenants indicated they were not happy with the agreement.

"Uh, no," incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Wednesday morning when asked whether he backs the deal being negotiated to set term limits.

Unlike Pelosi, Hoyer has already won the backing of the Democratic Caucus to be the Majority Leader in the next congressional sessions in January. The negotiating also is described as setting a term limit on the House’s No. 3 Democrat, incoming majority whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, to the deal.

“I’m the same as the Black Caucus,” Clyburn said Tuesday of term limits. “They’re against it.”

Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn, all in their late 70s, have led House Democrats for more than a decade and a group of dissenters within the party has been pushing for a new generation of leadership that more closely resembles the Democratic voting base and the influx of new lawmakers.

The plan would limit top party leaders to three two-year terms. The limits would be retroactive, meaning that Pelosi would only have two years left to be speaker following the four years she led the chamber from 2007-2010. Leaders could also seek an additional two-year term under modified rules.

The Democratic caucus would vote on the term limits after the speaker vote in January, with Pelosi’s support. If the caucus doesn’t support term limits, Pelosi said would still respect the deal and leave the speakership in either 2021 or 2023.

Since Democrats won back control of the House in November’s midterm elections, Pelosi has expressed confidence that she would reclaim the speaker’s gavel, and has steadily worked out agreements -- involving leadership posts, committee assignments and legislation -- to solidify her support.

Pelosi will need 218 votes on the House floor Jan. 3 if all members are present and cast a ballot for a candidate. She won the Democratic nomination 203-32 in closed-door caucus voting last month. Though some of her backers then are non-voting delegates -- who cannot vote for speaker on the House floor -- others who voted against her have said they will now support her on the House floor. The combination of those members who are flipping and the added votes that this deal can bring is believed to bring Pelosi close to what she needs.

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