Though nothing is official yet, it appears increasingly likely that Republicans will regain control of the House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), rather than be relegated to minority leader once again, will either step aside from the Democratic House leadership team or retire from Congress altogether.
The question then becomes who will be Pelosi’s replacement as the leader of House Democrats, but multiple reports indicate that Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has likely already unofficially laid claim to that role, according to the Conservative Brief.
Jeffries, however, will reportedly have to fend off an effort by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to garner the top leadership position, as well as bypass Pelosi’s top two lieutenants, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who by way of seniority could lay claims to the top spot.
Jeffries secures support
Politico reported in early November that Jeffries held a secret meeting with Clyburn in September to both inform him of Schiff’s quiet campaign and seek support for his own effort to succeed Pelosi.
“There’s nothing I would ever do to impede the progress of our up-and-coming young Democrats and I see him as an up-and-coming young Democrat,” Clyburn told the outlet of Jeffries. “He knows that, I didn’t have to tell him that — but I did.”
The influential South Carolina congressman went on to add that he was open to the idea of serving as a sort of senior adviser for Jeffries, that he was “willing to do anything the caucus thinks is to their benefit,” and that the younger Jeffries already “referred to me as a mentor.”
Schiff makes a play
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported in July that Schiff had months earlier launched a “shadow campaign” to be Pelosi’s replacement that involved reaching out to key colleagues in various blocs within the Democratic House caucus in order to gauge the level of interest and support there was for his leadership bid.
That outreach received a “tepid” response, according to the Post, including among his own California delegation, but especially from the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Jeffries and Clyburn are members and over which Clyburn wields great influence.
To be sure, Schiff has great name recognition, owing almost solely to his incessant anti-Trump work, and he is admittedly an exceptional fundraiser — two main qualities for a Democratic leader — but lacks the sort of personal relationships with other members that is also required, relationships that Jeffries has been cultivating for years, per Politico.
Possible entirely new leadership team
Then there is the question of Speaker Pelosi herself and the will-she-or-won’t-she speculative debate about her own political future, especially if House Democrats are in the minority, according to an October report from Vanity Fair about the desire of many Democrats for a “generational change” among the party leadership.
Pelosi had previously pledged to step aside at the end of this current term, but she and her top aides have been cagey and dodged such questions about her future intentions after the end of this year, though it seems more likely than not that Pelosi will not be a part of the Democratic leadership team in the next term.
Should Pelosi abide by her prior pledge to step aside, Politico noted that the most likely scenario for a new House Democratic leadership team’s top three would include Rep. Jeffries along with Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA). Others who may challenge them or seek additional leadership or supportive roles include Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Ted Lieu (D-CA).