- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

House Democrats are sticking with Nancy Pelosi as their leader after their party suffered humiliating losses in last week’s elections, but many of them are privately eyeing a post-Pelosi era, saying they think she will cede power when President Obama’s tenure ends in two years.

For now, Mrs. Pelosi’s position is secure. Nobody has stepped forward to challenge the Californian’s leadership, and two of her potential rivals have said they will continue to seek lower leadership posts.

But supporters have quietly begun to talk about those who could ascend to the top job eventually, including House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who has played second fiddle to Mrs. Pelosi for years, and House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who has built a strong following in the caucus as one of Mrs. Pelosi’s top lieutenants.

“Everyone is always looking to the future to see what is going to happen down the line, especially at a time like this,” said a veteran House Democratic aide.

Lawmakers return Wednesday for a lame-duck session after three months of nearly uninterrupted time away from Capitol Hill. Those who were newly elected last week will be in town for orientation and to vote on leaders for the 114th Congress. House Democrats hold their election next week.

Mr. Van Hollen and Mr. Hoyer have pledged their support for Mrs. Pelosi.

SEE ALSO: Nancy Pelosi to Democratic voters: Yes, it’s a ‘terrible year’ — but it’s your fault

“She has been effective in leading the Democratic caucus,” said Mr. Van Hollen. “If you look at her record, including the period when she was speaker of the House and George Bush was president, you actually find a period when people were able to work together to get things done, including the fact that she helped President Bush prevent the meltdown of the financial industry.”

Other names bandied about on Capitol Hill as potential successors to Mrs. Pelosi in two years include Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, Democratic caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California and Democratic caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York.

Members also are talking about the need for “new blood” in leadership roles, said a Democratic Capitol Hill insider, who mentioned up-and-coming Rep. Donna F. Edwards of Maryland.

Ms. Edwards is considered a possible contender to succeed Rep. Steve Israel of New York next year as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, though some members have raised doubts about her prowess at fundraising, which is a chief responsibility of the job.

Mr. Israel is the only member of the Democratic leadership team who plans to step down.

Indeed, all four of the party caucuses appear poised to return their top posts, meaning Harry Reid of Nevada will continue to lead Senate Democrats, Speaker John A. Boehner will lead House Republicans and Mitch McConnell will become Senate majority leader.

Several House Democrats acknowledged that Republicans succeeded in making Mrs. Pelosi a symbol of dysfunction in Washington by invoking her name alongside Mr. Obama’s and Mr. Reid’s to whip up conservative support.

But Democrats insisted that Mrs. Pelosi was not a liability inside the caucus.

“Look, you can always learn from experience and there’s always opportunities to improve, but I don’t think anybody thinks that replacing Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader will somehow eliminate the Republicans’ vilification of President Obama or, for that matter, their vilification of Nancy Pelosi,” said Rep. Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat.

“The fact that they ran a smear campaign against the president and mischaracterized the presidents’ accomplishments and they ran a similar smear campaign against Nancy Pelosi vilifying her in part because she’s the highest elected female official in the United States — at least for the next two years — that would somehow disqualify Nancy Pelosi to be our leader? Quite to the contrary. That would be letting the smear campaign succeed, wouldn’t it?” he said.

After the elections, Mrs. Pelosi told House Democrats that she still has unfinished business. She said her understanding of the poor showing at the polls was not a rebuke of Democrats’ message but rather of their motivation. She also hinted that access to voting booths may have been a problem.

“To succeed, we must inspire, educate and remove obstacles to participation. Only by changing our political environment and broadening the universe of the electorate can we build a strong sense of community and an economy that works for everyone,” she said.

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