House Democrats to Discuss Term Limits on Committee Chairs, Pelosi Says

Speaker hopeful declines to stake a position, says it is a caucus decision

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says the Democratic Caucus will soon have a discussion on term limits for committee chairmen but does not take a stance on proposal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats will soon have a discussion about whether to subject their committee chairs to term limits, an idea that has long divided the caucus, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. 

“That’s a matter before the caucus,“ the California Democrat told reporters during her weekly news conference. “I’ve always been sympathetic to the concerns that have been expressed by our members on that subject Actually I tried to do that when I became speaker in ’07 but the caucus did not support that.”

But Pelosi declined to stake out a position on the proposal Thursday, saying, “That’s a debate for the caucus to have, and we will have that.”

Republicans limit their committee leaders to serving three terms, regardless of whether that time is spent as chairman or ranking member. 

Democrats do not have any limit on how long their committee leaders can serve, which has led to some holding the top spot for years without an opportunity for other panel members to move up. Similar complaints have been lodged against Pelosi and her top two deputies in elected leadership, all of whom have been in leadership for more than a decade. 

Pelosi said incoming Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., has “received much interest” from members, particularly incoming freshmen, on the idea of term limits for committee leaders.

She said the caucus will have a discussion on the proposal but it is unclear whether it will be in the coming weeks or January. With the incoming freshmen no longer in town, any discussion held this month would have to include them by teleconference or something, Pelosi said. 

The Democratic leader's comments Thursday came after the Huffington Post reported Wednesday night that she offered to back the term limit proposal in a meeting with Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter, one of the Democrats who has been opposing her speaker bid. 

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