Nancy Pelosi, working to reclaim the top job in the U.S. House of Representatives, has called for creation of a new leadership post in a move that could make room for younger lawmakers in the upper echelons of the House Democrats.
The 78-year-old San Francisco liberal and current House Democratic leader is fighting hard to regain the job of speaker after the Nov. 6 elections in which Democrats gained a majority in the 435-member chamber.
Pelosi previously held the post in 2007-2011 when she made history as the first woman speaker. But a handful of fellow Democrats have opposed her taking up the job again, saying the party needs new, younger leadership when the new Congress convenes in January.
In a letter to current and incoming House Democrats late on Tuesday, Pelosi called for creation of an additional committee post in House leadership ranks, focused on policy and communications.
“This enhancement … will position House Democrats to best take advantage of the new size and diversity of our Caucus,” Pelosi wrote.
The House Democrats’ other current top leaders are No. 2 Steny Hoyer and No. 3 James Clyburn, both also in their late 70s. The two have said they plan run for top spots, Hoyer as majority leader and Clyburn as majority whip.
While 16 Democrats have threatened to join Republicans and vote against Pelosi in January when the House elects a speaker, no Democrat has openly issued a challenge to her. On Tuesday, she won the backing of one potential challenger, fellow Democrat Marcia Fudge.
Democratic former President Barack Obama, a highly influential figure in the party, called Pelosi “one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen” in an interview with podcast “The Axe Files” released on Tuesday.
Representative Jim Himes, in a CNN interview on Wednesday, said fellow Democrats have a right to consider alternative leaders but added the party should unite once that plays out.
“If it doesn’t work: Stop. Allow us to unify, allow us to move forward,” Himes said, adding he would not yet announce who he was supporting for the speaker role.
House Democrats elected to the next Congress are scheduled to meet on Nov. 28 to pick their leaders and nominee for speaker. The full House will vote in early January on the speaker position.
In her letter, Pelosi acknowledged the expanding Democratic caucus and said the new position would be in addition to three current co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee: Representatives Cheri Bustos, David Cicilline and Hakeem Jeffries.
President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans retained their majority in the Senate in this month’s elections.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Frances Kerry)