Originally Published in Beltway Breakfast

By Drew Clark

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2018 – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Wednesday agreement to limit herself to no more than four more years at the helm of congressional Democrats may assuage objections to her assuming the speakership, at least from the left flank of the party.

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said Tuesday that Pelosi’s ability to win the vote to become House Speaker in January 3 is all but assured, said Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, the caucus co-chairs.

They said, however, that they expect that Pelosi to honor her commitment to ensure that Progressive Caucus members are allocated 40 percent of the seats on congressional committees.

“We are ready to do the work of real, accountable democratic reform,” said Pocan, who has been caucus co-chair since 2017. The other co-chair, Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, is retiring at the end of this year, and Jayapal is stepping into his spot.

With the large incoming freshman class of Democrats elected in 2018, the ranks of caucus are expected to swell to about 90 in the session that begins on January 3, 2019. The caucus was formed in 1991 by Rep. Bernie Sanders, then an independent congressman from Vermont. Sanders, now a senator, is the caucus’ only member from the upper chamber.

When will there be fresh blood in top Democratic leadership?

While some progressives might hope for fresh leadership, Pocan said that members on “planet earth” acknowledged the reality that three veteran lawmakers will be the principal leaders of the Democratic Caucus: Pelosi, age 78; Maryland’s Steny Hoyer as Majority Leader, age 79; and South Carolina’s James Clyburn as Majority Whip, age 78.

The sit-down with Pocan and Jayapal took place on Tuesday, before Pelosi’s deal with several members of the Democratic Caucus to limit herself to three terms as speaker. The deal also includes the option of a fourth term if the leaders could obtain support from two-thirds of the Democratic caucus. The compromise agreement, announced on Wednesday, would also apply Hoyer and Clyburn and well as Pelosi.

As each had served in those posts from 2007-2011, when Democrats last held the majority in the House. Wednesday’s agreement four-term agreement (including time already served) would signal an anticipated departure from those leadership roles by the end of 2022.

Although it was unclear whether Hoyer had agreed to the proposal, in a statement Pelosi said: “I am comfortable with the proposal, and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not.”

“Over the summer,” she said, “I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic caucus.”

Pelosi gets a boost from her ‘mansplaining’ brinksmanship with Trump

Pocan and Jayapal lauded Pelosi’s skills at negotiation, which were visible after a highly contention public discussion in the Oval Office between her, Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and President Donald Trump. The flare-up centered on Congress’ willingness to fund the border wall proposed by Trump.

The meeting had happened just before the sit-down, and Jayapal said that Pelosi was “damned good” at negotiating.

“She knows how the process works, understands how the [Democratic] caucus works,” said Pocan. “You don’t want to ever be on the other side.”

They said Pelosi’s skills and passion will serve Democrats well on hot-button issues like immigration, as well as areas where there might be greater agreement between Democrats and the White House. Those issues include infrastructure spending and regulating, or jawboning down, the price of prescription drugs.

“She has a deep sense of the immorality of what the president is doing on the wall, and his political scapegoating of immigrants with the caravan,” said Jayapal.

Jayapal is an Indian-American immigrant who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. She had just come from her committee’s hearing with its sweeping cross-examination of Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who is also an Indian immigrant.

At the hearing, Jayapal made mention of her own ethnic background, as being born in the same Indian state as Pichai. Pichai did not make any reaction to Jayapal’s comment.

Progressives eager for infrastructure legislation with federal spending

Pocan highlighted what he saw as the Democrats’ three-fold priorities for the upcoming session: Access to health care, infrastructure investment and increasing wages, and countering the culture of corruption from the Trump administration.

He said progressives were particularly enthusiastic about infrastructure investment, and predicted that a $1 trillion infrastructure investment would prevail from the House, as “there is vast support” for that sum.

That’s only half of what the progressive caucus has called for. But even the progressive caucus’ preference for $2 trillion doesn’t match the $4 trillion-$6 trillion that the American Society of Civil Engineers has said would be necessary to properly rebuild America’s infrastructure, said Pocan.