Eschewing the Gavel?

Nancy Pelosi has disputed a published interview in National Journal today in which she reportedly disclaimed any interest in being Speaker again (“No, that’s not my thing; I did that”). But it wouldn’t be surprising if she felt that way, even if it’s awkward to admit it without a firm retirement plan and without giving the indication she has any doubt that Democrats will retake the House next year. She’s been Democratic House Leader now for more than a decade. She’s already become the first woman to serve as Speaker, and at the beginning of 2017 (barring some unlikely development), she will have been the highest ranking woman in American political history for a decade, too. I’m sure it has occurred to her that it would be very cool to yield that distinction to Hillary Clinton and then sit behind her as she gave her first State of the Union Address (a Democratic House takeover being considerably more likely in 2016 than in 2014). But that’s a double hypothetical.

This isn’t the first time Pelosi has dropped hints of giving it all up, or had hints dropped for her: her daughter said at the end of 2011 that she was “pining” to retire.

In any event, she’s sufficiently in control of the Democratic Caucus that nobody in it would be wise to make any plans for a post-Pelosi House, least of all potential successors like Steny Hoyer, who will badly need her blessing to overcome long-standing progressive concerns about his ideological leanings and loyalties. And when Pelosi does decide to retire, it’s a given that she’ll say it clearly and won’t have to say it loudly.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.