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Pelosi Supports Expanding Elected Democratic Leadership

Proposals would open door for younger members to join leadership

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is welcoming proposals to expand the elected Democratic leadership and designate positions for more junior members. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is welcoming proposals to expand the elected Democratic leadership and designate positions for more junior members. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic colleagues late Monday night outlining a set of “consensus changes” to expand the elected leadership of the Democratic Caucus and reserve some of the positions for more junior members.

The four suggested changes, which the California Democrat said “one group of members” presented, are:

  1. Making the Democratic Policy and Communications chairmanship an elected post that must be filled by a member who has served less than five terms. The chairmanship is currently an appointed position Pelosi created in 2015 so New York Rep. Steve Israel could continue to serve on her leadership team after stepping down as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pelosi is proposing to expand upon the idea by replacing the single chairman with three co-chairs “to cover more fully the priorities of members,” she said. This would immediately open up three new elected positions in leadership since Israel is retiring this year.
  2. Revamping the elected assistant leader position, which Pelosi created in 2010 for South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn, the next time there is vacancy. Only members who have served fewer than three terms will be able to run for the post. Clyburn is expected to remain in the post for now, so it’s unclear when the vacancy will occur.
  3. Creating five regional vice chair positions at the DCCC, elected by members of those yet-to-be-defined regions. Pelosi said this suggestion first came from current DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján, whom she tapped after the 2014 elections to lead the House Democrats’ campaign arm for the 2016 cycle. Since Pelosi did not mention making the chairman position an elected post or the possibility of replacing Luján, it appears those two things are unlikely to occur.
  4. Requiring each committee to create a vice ranking member position (or vice chair if Democrats are in the majority again one day) that would be filled by members who have served on the panel for four terms or less. Pelosi said the vice ranking members would participate in the weekly ranking member meeting on Wednesdays. This proposal appears to come in lieu of term limits for Democratic committee leaders, as some members have suggested.

The Democratic Caucus would need to vote on the proposed changes before they are formally adopted into caucus rules, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Some details are still under discussion, like how the vice ranking members would be selected and when the election of the three Democratic Policy and Communications co-chairs and the five regional DCCC vice chairs would take place, the aide said.

Pelosi faces a challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan for her minority leader post. She contends she has locked up the support of at least two-thirds of the caucus, which would be more than enough for the simple majority vote needed to be re-elected. But her support of the proposals to create more room in leadership for younger members are still likely to go a long way to ensuring that she wins.

The four proposals have received positive feedback from the current Democratic leaders and ranking members, Pelosi said.

“In the course of my conversations with members, I was especially interested in their desire to have a stronger role in their committees,” Pelosi said. “This is music to my ears, because that is exactly what was essential to our success in 2006.”

When Republicans last controlled Congress and the White House a decade ago, Democrats “engaged in aggressive oversight and data and analysis dissemination,” Pelosi said. Such an effort will be needed again under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, supported by a GOP-led House and Senate, she added.

“It is essential that Democrats use their committee powers to ensure a full disclosure of the impacts of legislation, executive actions and regulatory decisions by Republicans, together with an aggressive and creative use of both the formal press/media and social networking,” Pelosi said.

The committee powers she cited include conducting hearings, issuing confidential requests to investigative entities like the Government Accountability Office and agency inspector generals, and enhancing communications strategies.

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