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The day after elections that were largely positive for the Democratic Party, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s future loomed over leadership races, as lawmakers waited for her to decide whether she will return for two more years at the helm of the House’s minority party.
Democratic leaders did not schedule any Wednesday conference calls or meetings with rank-and-file Members to discuss the election results or pending legislative matters such as the “fiscal cliff,” leaving Democrats in the dark about Pelosi’s thinking. And several leadership aides said they were not aware of the California Democrat’s whereabouts.
Opinions diverge widely on what effect the election results would have on her decision to stay or go.
Though Democrats missed their goal of winning back control of the House by a wide mark, they did make incremental progress by picking up seats, prompting Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) to claim on MSNBC, “We did better than anybody ever expected.”
The reality is more tempered. Describing the results as a “slow but steady erosion of the GOP majority,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said, “Obviously, I’d like it to be more robust.”
But he and others expressed satisfaction that Democrats made some progress, and Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.) touted the diversity of the newly elected members of his party.
That sentiment was echoed in a release sent out late Wednesday by Pelosi’s office.
“In January, the Democratic Caucus will bring to the 113th Congress the first ‘majority-minority’ Caucus in our history, reflecting the great diversity and strength of our nation. This larger, more diverse Caucus will play a greater role in support of President [Barack] Obama and our colleagues in the Senate,” Pelosi said in the release.
“My guess would be [Pelosi] should stay since it was such a high note for Democrats last night,” a senior Democratic aide said. “Considering how we defeated 16 incumbents last night ... I think we have a lot to work with.”
But others surveyed the bleak prospects of two more years in the minority and expected Pelosi to hang it up.
“I think she’s done,” one Democratic Member said, noting that with Obama re-elected, the Democrats’ health care overhaul will be safe from repeal, cementing a key accomplishment Pelosi helped enact.
If Pelosi does step down, a wide array of Democrats have said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) would have a lock on the Minority Leader position.
One important question is whether Democrats can realistically expect to continue chipping away at the GOP’s House majority in the 2014 midterms.