House Democrats to Wait ’Til Next Year in Term Limit Discussion

Hard talk will have to wait for incoming freshmen in 116th Congress

The large freshman class will have a chance to weigh in on the House Democrats' rules package, an and specifically whether to have term limits for leaders and committee chairs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With the current impasse on the upcoming speaker election as backdrop, House Democrats on Tuesday discussed the concept of term limiting their elected leaders and committee chairs, but decided to postpone until January when the incoming freshmen will be present to participate.

“We’re going to talk after the New Year,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters.

Pelosi has been discussing the term limit idea, among other topics, with Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter recently. He is among a group of 20 Democrats who’ve said publicly they oppose Pelosi’s bid for speaker.

Perlmutter has declined to talk to reporters about the discussions, but some news reports have indicated that he and others were seeking a deal on term limits in order to back Pelosi for speaker. With the discussion being punted until likely after the speaker vote, it’s unclear if there’s still a deal for Perlmutter to make.

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, another Pelosi opponent, said that the larger group of anti-Pelosi Democrats has not been involved in the negotiations over term limits, only a small subsection of the group. He said a deal on term limits would not persuade him to support Pelosi but suggested he may still be open to a specific succession plan for her speakership.

Perlmutter was the only person to speak up in favor of term limits during the brief Democratic Caucus discussion, according to Rep. Karen Bass, an opponent of term limits.

An agreement was reached during the discussion that the term limits Republicans have on committee chairs would be stripped from the House rules when Democrats bring a new package to the floor in January and House Democrats will discuss term limits in the context of their caucus rules.

Pelosi’s top two deputies, incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, separately told reporters Tuesday they oppose term limits.

Hoyer said Pelosi has not kept him apprised of her discussions on that topic.

“She’s not negotiating for me,” he said.

Hoyer predicted that if the caucus debates term limits next year those discussions won't result in any changes.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said.

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