Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday reaffirmed a pledge she made to House Democrats two years ago that she would give up the gavel after the 117th Congress.
Ahead of the 116th Congress, Pelosi cut a deal with a handful of members threatening to vote against her for speaker on the floor. To win their support, the California Democrat agreed to allow the caucus to vote on proposed term limits for the top three Democratic leaders and to abide by the proposal herself regardless of whether it was adopted.
The term limit plan, which would have limited the top three leaders from serving beyond the 117th Congress, was not brought before the caucus as scheduled, amid a partial government shutdown. The members pushing for the proposal agreed to drop it indefinitely but noted they could always bring it up again if needed.
In the nearly two years since Pelosi cut that deal, she’s declined to answer questions about whether she’d uphold her commitment to give up the speaker’s gavel after the 117th Congress. But at a news conference Wednesday, shortly after the Democratic Caucus nominated her to serve as speaker again, Pelosi answered the question.
Her response wasn’t direct, but it revealed her intention to keep her promise from two years prior.
“What I said then is whether it passes or not, I will abide by those limits that are there,” the speaker said.
Pelosi said after the 2016 election that she had planned to retire if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, but she decided to stay on to ensure there’d be a woman at the leadership table with President Donald Trump and male congressional leaders.
“If my husband is listening, don’t let me have to be more specific than that because we never expected to have another term now,” she said Wednesday. “I consider this a gift. And I can’t wait to be working with Joe Biden and preparing us for our transition into the future.”
In 2018, before she cut the term limit deal, Pelosi had been reticent to pinpoint how long she would stay on, noting that she didn’t want to make herself a lame duck. That’s why she hasn’t talked about it even after agreeing to the term limit for herself and why on Wednesday she avoided saying directly that her next term would be her last.
“I don’t want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement,” Pelosi said.
Some members had wanted Pelosi to affirm her commitment to the term limit, and doing so probably helps her heading into a January floor vote in which she can’t afford more than a handful of defections. Democrats will have a single-digit majority — the specific number will be determined by the outcomes of uncalled House races — and at least 10 of the Democrats who voted against Pelosi two years ago are returning to Congress. Two of them, though, Reps. Jim Cooper and Jason Crow, are now planning to support her in the January floor vote, their offices confirmed. The others did not return requests for comment.