Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, was so desperate to regain her position as House Majority Speaker next month, she made a surprising announcement — and it all but ensured she’d win the position.
Pelosi silenced a revolt by disgruntled younger Democrats by agreeing to step down after four more years in the chamber’s top post.
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Within moments of announcing Wednesday she would restrict her time in the job, seven of her outspoken critics promisedto back the California liberal leader.
Democrats widely agreed that the pledge meant Pelosi had clinched a comeback to the post she held from 2007 until January 2011, the last time her party ran the House.
Wednesday’s announcement gives Pelosi a clear path to becoming the most powerful Democrat in government and a leading role in confronting President Donald Trump during the upcoming 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.
The agreement also ends what’s been a harsh internal fight for power among Democrats that has been waged since Election Day, when they gained at least 39 seats and grabbed House control for the next Congress. Republicans gained firmer control of the Senate during the midterm election.
To line up support, Pelosi initially resorted to full-court press among politicial allies, outside Democratic donors and money shakers, and liberal and labor organizations. She cut sweetheart deals with individual lawmakers for committee assignments and roles leading legislative efforts.
And it worked… almost.
In the end, she had to agree to step aside in four years to make sure she’ll win control — with a likely 218 votes — when the new House convenes Jan. 3. Democrats are expected to have 235 seats, meaning she could spare only 17 defections and still prevail if, as expected, Republicans all oppose her.
For weeks, Pelosi refused to say how long she would serve as speaker by claiming it would lessen her negotiating leverage to declare herself a lame duck.
On Wednesday, she gave in to her opponents’ demands that she limit her service. Under the deal, House Democrats will vote by Feb. 15 to change party rules to limit their top three leaders to no more than four two-year terms, including time they’ve already spent in those jobs.
“I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not,” Pelosi said in her statement.
Pelosi’s opponents have argued it was time for younger leaders to command the party. They also said her reputation as an out-of-touch radical was costing Democrats votes.
While some Democrats are still certain to vote against Pelosi — especially incoming freshmen who promised to do so during their campaigns — most establishment Democrats have remained solidly behind her. She’s well connected with big money donors and an unrelenting liberal who doesn’t shy from political combat.
“We are proud that our agreement will make lasting institutional change that will strengthen our caucus and will help develop the next generation of Democratic leaders,” the once “Never Nancy” lawmakers said in a written statement.
To be nominated to a fourth term under the agreement, Pelosi would need to garner a two-thirds majority of House Democrats. Several aides said they believed restlessness by younger members to move up in leadership would make that difficult for her to achieve.
The limits would also apply to Pelosi’s top lieutenants, No. 2 leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and No. 3 leader James Clyburn of South Carolina. Both are also in their late 70s.
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Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., was among 16 Democrats who had signed a letter demanding new leadership but who ultimately helped negotiate the deal with Pelosi.
Joining Perlmutter in saying they would now back her were Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; Tim Ryan of Ohio; Bill Foster of Illinois; Linda Sanchez and Rep.-elect Gil Cisernos, both of California; and Filemon Vela of Texas.
The Associated Press contributed to this article