House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has very likely sewn up the support she needs to become speaker of the House next year when the new Congress is sworn in.
In a deal struck with a group of House Democrats who had vowed to vote against the longtime Democratic leader in next month's House speaker election, the California lawmaker agreed to term limits that would see her hold the post through 2022 at the latest.
The agreement ensures Pelosi will easily have the 218 votes she needs to win the speakership on the House's first ballot.
"Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders," Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday evening announcing the agreement, "a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new Members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus."
The term limits agreement, which still needs to be formalized by a vote of House Democrats, would limit caucus leaders to three terms, and a fourth term if two-thirds of the caucus agrees to it. The new limits would apply retroactively to Pelosi as well as incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and incoming Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
While that exit date is four years away, the agreement satisfies the key demand that the anti-Pelosi lawmakers had focused on: the fact that the same small group of Democrats has led the caucus for years, choking off substantial advancement opportunities for younger lawmakers.
The small group of rebels, led by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, struggled to block Pelosi from reclaiming the speakership — a post she previously held from 2007-2010, when she was the first female speaker in House history.
The group initially vowed to run a candidate against Pelosi for Democratic leader. But Pelosi won a support pledge from the one Democrat who had publicly considered taking on the challenge: Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge. Pelosi ended up running uncontested, and in the weeks since the internal caucus election she had steadily picked up more support from holdout Democrats.
Pelosi's Oval Office confrontation with President Trump Tuesday was also seen as a boost to her speaker candidacy.
Still, the remaining holdouts would have made Pelosi's quest for 218 votes more challenging, and she agreed to a deal with them. "We are proud that our agreement will make lasting institutional change that will strengthen our caucus and will help develop the next generation of Democratic leaders. We will support and vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House in the 116th Congress," Moulton, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and five other Democrats said in a statement.
Even with term limits, Pelosi could eventually double the time she served as speaker if Democrats retain their majority in 2020 and she wins the caucus votes she needs. For the past two years, Pelosi has repeatedly said she had initially intended to retire after the 2016 elections but decided to stay on and continue leading House Democrats after Trump's upset victory.