House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is intent to regain her Speakership, but as she sets her sights on that goal, several more junior Democratic Members are positioning themselves to succeed her.
A cadre of rising stars, including Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Steve Israel (N.Y.), are part of an emerging generation of lawmakers with hopes of moving up the leadership roster. Taking on roles that have increased their visibility, the Members aren’t standing idle as Pelosi maintains her grip on the Democratic Caucus.
So far, Pelosi has not publicly intimated that she has plans to step down anytime soon. And Democratic aides and lobbyists said her chances of remaining leader of the House Democrats have improved along with the party’s election prospects as Republicans have suffered politically on their proposal to overhaul Medicare.
“Democrats are going on the offense, holding Republicans accountable for ending Medicare as we know it and for supporting Big Oil instead of dealing with jobs,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said. “We fully expect to continue delivering this message in districts all across the country as we move toward regaining the majority.”
That hasn’t stopped speculation on who will replace the 71-year-old Congresswoman.
“Other than a parlor game ... nobody knows,” one Democratic lobbyist said. “It’s all just guesses.”
Another topic of discussion is the aging ranks of Pelosi’s leadership team. The average age of the top four House Democrats is 68. Although Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) and Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) may be interested in assuming the top Democratic slot, several aides and K Streeters believe that when Pelosi steps down there will be a wholesale change in the face of the Caucus leadership.
Wasserman Schultz, the 44-year-old Democratic National Committee chairwoman, tops the list of up-and-comers. While the Florida Democrat’s star dimmed last year when she was passed over to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic aides and lobbyists said her recent nomination to the Democratic National Committee gives her an even better platform to become the next leader of House Democrats.
President Barack Obama picked her to lead the party in a general election year, but Wasserman Schultz downplays what that might mean for her future.
“There’s always a lot of talk about my rise, rising star. I think that’s all baloney,” Wasserman Schultz said in an interview earlier this month. “The thing that I always want to be known by is hard worker. The best praise that anybody could heap on me is that I’m a hard worker, and if I’m rewarded for that hard work, it’s just going to make me more effective for my constituents.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.