The internal maneuvering of the Democrats to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking place quietly behind the scenes, even as lawmakers remain completely in the dark about her ambitions and future plans.
Members of Pelosi’s leadership team and those with ambitions to succeed her have reached out to their peers and launched what may be a shadowy campaign to be launched once Pelosi has made her decision and in time for the November 30 leadership election.
“I get tons of calls,” said one Democrat member, who, like others, asked for anonymity to speak openly about the delicate situation. “The first three usually just come by and say ‘hello’.”
Others are preparing letters to announce their applications for the top three spots, planning meetings with new Democratic members next week and preparing for a formal operation to lock down voting once Pelosi’s future plans become clear, according to multiple Democratic sources.
Pelosi’s decision isn’t the only one set to spark a leadership tussle: Her two top deputies, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer and South Carolina’s Jim Clyburn, have yet to signal their intentions. And if they decide to succeed her at the helm or try to hold on to a leadership position, it could lead to a chaotic internal struggle after the Democrats’ surprise wins in Tuesday’s midterm elections. A member told CNN that Hoyer is exploring a number of options.
Like Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn are in their 80s and are facing calls for a generational shift, despite demanding loyalty and respect from various wings of their faction. If Pelosi were to resign, the widespread belief internally is that Hakeem Jeffries, the 52-year-old Brooklyn Democrat and current parliamentary group leader, would be the frontrunner. And he and two other Democrats of his generation who sat at the leadership table — 59-year-old Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and 43-year-old Pete Aguilar of California — are believed to be a team that would round out the top three leadership positions.
But those plans could be tipped fairly quickly as others have signaled interest in senior positions. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been quietly meeting with members for months while he explores a possible nomination for the Democratic leader, while Progressive Congressional Committee Chair Pramila Jayapal is also seen as a potential candidate for a place on the leadership team.
However, all of this depends on what Pelosi decides to do. According to sources, Pelosi is expected to announce her future once the House is convened, and until then even her closest allies and aides don’t know what she will do, despite a pledge to Democrats years ago that she would step down after 2022.
“Everyone I believe is frozen by the situation,” said a senior Democratic adviser.
One member said the spokeswoman was so careful not to shake her hand that even Hoyer and Clyburn don’t know what their plans are.
With tight margins, potentially a razor-thin GOP majority, sources say will create momentum that will require other leadership qualities.
With Pelosi comes unparalleled institutional knowledge of working on tight margins and a staff with years of experience leading the caucus – something the younger generation lacks. Pelosi has heard from some members asking her to remain in the new Congress even when Democrats are in a minority, two sources tell CNN, citing her ability to maintain discipline as something crucial in a tightly divided chamber.
“The announcer will make an announcement when she makes an announcement,” Pelosis spokesman Drew Hammil told CNN in a statement. “Until then, we’re all enjoying watching Kevin McCarthy lose a speakership that his party didn’t even win.”
Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper this week that the violent attack on her husband Paul Pelosi influenced her decision about her future – but she hasn’t spoken out handedly about which direction she will go, and even members who support her on the next stand, do not know.
The decision, she said, “will be influenced by what has happened in the past week or two.”
Pelosi describes her experience following her husband’s attack, which was meant for her
Hoyer and Clyburn have both privately and publicly signaled that they would not necessarily resign if Pelosi announces her move.
“They have made it very clear that they will not stick to their schedule,” one member told CNN.
Hoyer told reporters earlier this week that he is holding off on making a decision until it is clear which party will remain in the majority.
“The ramifications of what ultimately happens will influence my decision,” Hoyer said.
According to two sources, Clyburn would step down in emeritus should Jeffries become the leader. Clyburn’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the story.
But Clyburn told Politico he wouldn’t stand in the way of Jeffrie’s promotion.
“There is nothing I would ever do to impede the progress of our rising young Democrats, and I see him as a rising young Democrat,” Clyburn said. “He knows that, I didn’t have to tell him that — but I did.”
Whether the South Carolina Democrat would try to stay on top, however, is uncertain.
“It’s difficult to fill in below the top spot until you know who the top spot is,” said one senior executive. “But that doesn’t mean talks aren’t happening.”
While candidates for the top three wait to see what Pelosi does before making any public moves, the Democrats, who are running for the bottom half of their party’s leadership, have publicly announced and launched full-throttle campaigns.
Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, who currently serves as co-chair of the Democratic Politics and Communications Committee, announced his candidacy for caucus chair to replace Jeffries, whose term is limited.
The race to lead the party’s campaign arm, the DCCC chairman, is already heating up after the current chairman, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, lost his re-election, whom Pelosi reportedly said had “an arrow.” taken for us”.
Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas of California announced his race for the seat on Friday, but others are also being circulated, including California Rep. Ami Bera and Sara Jacobs.