Press Conference Likely to be Overshadowed by Pelosi Questions

Billy House
National Journal

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is planning to hold a Capitol Hill news conference on Tuesday afternoon with newly elected colleagues as speculation mounts over whether she wants to remain the House’s top Democrat.

The California lawmaker will be joined by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York. The 2 p.m. appearance comes a day before a scheduled House Democratic Caucus meeting. It is widely anticipated that Pelosi, 72, will tell her colleagues during that closed-door meeting what her plans are. 

House Democrats will hold their leadership elections the week after Thanksgiving. 

At a local Veterans Day event on Sunday, Pelosi told reporters: “I will make that announcement to my caucus. When I see my caucus, I will discuss it with them.” It was unclear whether she was talking about her plans or how many seats Democrats ultimately won on Election Day. 

“She's talking with members,” was all spokesman Drew Hammill would say on Monday. “When she's ready to make an announcement, she will do so.” 

Pelosi and her top deputy, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, reportedly talked over the weekend. But details of that discussion — or even its occurrence — were not being discussed by either office. 

Speculation about Pelosi’s future dates back to 2011, when her daughter suggested the Democratic leader would retire “right now” if donors didn’t want her to stay so badly. Pelosi aides have scrambled to downplay that comment ever since, however. 

The general consensus is that she can remain leader if she wants — and that no one has the political juice to unseat her. 

Some believe that Pelosi, who just celebrated her 25 anniversary in Congress, representing San Francisco, will use Tuesday’s press conference to make a case for remaining leader, despite Democrats falling significantly short in their “Drive for 25” seats to take back the House majority they lost with a net drop of 63 seats in 2010.

Some races are still up in the air. As of Monday, Democrats had gained roughly seven or eight seats. However, they still have a long road to reclaiming the House majority. How much that might wear on Pelosi’s enthusiasm — and her caucus’s enthusiasm for her — is uncertain.

The only certainty is that Pelosi has pledged to serve out the new House term she just won. 

That has created speculation that she might remain leader long enough to help pave the path for a chosen successor. Whether that is Hoyer, 73, who has long toiled in her shadow, or some younger member is a question that, for now, is on hold.