House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will file and run for reelection in next year’s midterm elections, according to a report, despite her previous pledge to step down as leader of the House Democrats after 2022.
The report comes as speculation grows about who may replace Pelosi as leader of the House Democratic Caucus if she retires after the 2022 elections, which are widely expected to result in Republicans winning back control of the chamber.
Pelosi has held her party’s top role in the House as both speaker and minority leader for nearly two decades. During leadership elections in 2018, Pelosi agreed to a term-limit plan that would mean she would not seek the speaker’s gavel after the 2022 elections. Last year, she affirmed her commitment to the plan.
But the CNN report published on Sunday, citing “sources familiar with Pelosi’s thinking,” said that Pelosi is keeping open the possibility of breaking that pledge and seeking to remain the leader of House Democrats after 2022.
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The news marks a shift for the top House Democrat. When asked in October whether she would run for reelection, Pelosi declined to answer, further fueling speculation that she was planning an exit.
“Why would I tell you that now?” Pelosi said. “Probably I would have that conversation with my family first, if you don't mind."
Pelosi could still ultimately keep her term-limit agreement and leave Congress even if she seeks and is elected to another term by resigning after the election.
Running for another term and keeping open the possibility of seeking a leadership position again helps Pelosi keep control over her caucus and avoid being seen as a “lame-duck speaker,” a term that Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has used to describe her.
It may also quiet speculation about who can replace her as the Democratic leader in the House, avoiding monthslong angling for the position among top contenders that distracts from campaigning against Republicans in the midterm elections.
There is also the concern that if Pelosi says that she is going to retire before the 2022 elections and Republicans do win back the House in a massive wave, it will look like she was abandoning her members and leaving them to fight for themselves in the minority before Republicans take control. A wave of Democratic retirements has already created the impression of jumping ship rather than being relegated to the minority.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan was in a similar position to Pelosi in 2018, when Democrats were expected to and did make gains in the House that sent Republicans into the minority. The top Republican considered running for reelection that year even though he planned to make an exit in order to continue fundraising for House Republicans, with worries that an advance announcement of his retirement would spook donors away from contributing to House Republican candidates.
Ryan instead announced his retirement from Congress in April 2018, ahead of the election. He said that his conscience would not let him ask constituents to vote for him while knowing that he planned to leave Congress.
In the last year, Pelosi has dealt with a fair number of struggles managing her caucus due to a growing divide between centrist and far-left Democrats. Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House has allowed both ideological wings leverage.
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It took Pelosi nearly three months of wrangling the liberal and centrist factions, the last-minute delaying of votes, two Capitol Hill visits from President Joe Biden, a decoupling of the two halves of Democrats’ "Build Back Better" legislative agenda, and the votes of 13 Republicans to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in a late-night vote in November.
Separately, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s criticism of Israel has crossed the line to many Democrats, forcing intraparty tension to spill out into the public sphere. In June, a group of 12 Jewish Democrats signed a statement confronting Omar for giving “cover to terrorist groups” after her apparent comparison of the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.