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Pelosi Sees Newfound Unity Among House Democratic Caucus

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
A key question facing Pelosi, 72, is whether she’ll nurture a successor.

Throughout the fiscal cliff debate, Pelosi remained in close contact with Obama and Reid. Israel said that Obama would often call Pelosi during House Democratic leadership meetings. And a Democratic leadership aide said that Pelosi and Obama spoke at length on New Year’s Eve to review the final terms of a deal struck between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Pelosi’s clout was instrumental in pulling an increase to the Medicare eligibility age off the table in the failed talks between Boehner and Obama. After the talks between House Republicans and the president fell apart, Pelosi ensured that “chained CPI,” a proposal to change how Social Security payments are indexed for inflation, wasn’t part of talks between McConnell and Biden, the Democratic leadership aide said.

Going forward, a key question facing the liberal Pelosi, 72, is whether she’ll nurture a successor or let more moderate Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, 73, ascend to replace her. Hoyer lost in a head-to-head contest against Pelosi for whip in 2002 and has long aspired to be the top House Democrat. If Pelosi had stepped down in 2010 or 2012, Hoyer would have been a lock to replace her, even if for just a transitional period because of his age.

Democratic aides and members list three Pelosi allies as possible successors: Israel, Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking member on the Budget Committee. Pelosi’s preferences are known only to her — she is ruthlessly efficient at controlling information when she deems it necessary.

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