Fox: Rumors are swirling that Pelosi will step down after the infrastructure package passes

Fox: Rumors are swirling that Pelosi will step down after the infrastructure package passes

This caught my attention, not because I think it’s true but because after I watched it I started talking myself into believing it’d be a smart move strategically for Dems.

Lefties were indignant after the clip aired yesterday morning. If there’s momentous news coming about Pelosi relinquishing the gavel it’d be unthinkable for their least favorite network to scoop the rest of the media on it, especially if it’s Maria Bartiromo who’s doing the scooping. It’s one thing for a respected journalist like Bret Baier or Chris Wallace to have an inside track, but a MAGA true believer? C’mon.

In fact, progressives are speculating that Bartiromo’s super secret source here is none other than Trump himself, which seems plausible. I’m sure he still hears gossip from the Hill in his chats with Republican members of Congress. Maybe Kevin McCarthy or Steve Scalise or whoever passed the rumor onto him and he passed it onto his friend Maria. Or maybe Trump’s just making political mischief, inventing the rumor that Pelosi might be exiting in hopes that it’ll start a panic on the left and upend the Democrats’ infrastructure negotiations.

It’s probably not true. If Pelosi were thinking of stepping down as Speaker or retiring or both, she’d keep those thoughts closely held within her inner circle until infrastructure passed. For her to signal now, at a delicate moment legislatively, that she’s on her way out would be taken as a sign that she believes a midterm wipeout is inevitable. It might tank the reconciliation process. House Dems might turn cutthroat with each other (more cutthroat with each other, I should say) as they jockey for position amid a leadership vacuum.

It’s probably not true — but should it be? Would Pelosi stepping down after infrastructure passes help the party or hurt it?

I think it’d help. She’s always been turnout fuel for the right, after all. “This country can’t bear another two years of Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House,” Republicans ads will say next fall. If she steps down as Speaker, she denies them that. “This country can’t bear two years of Steny Hoyer in charge of the House” doesn’t sound half as scary.

Maybe Democrats would bypass Hoyer and opt for a next-gen leader like Hakeem Jeffries. Installing the first black Speaker of the House a year before the midterms would be an efficient way to get black voters’ attention amid their growing disenchantment with Joe Biden. And Jeffries is only 51. Putting him in charge of the caucus would end House Democrats’ long gerontocracy. It’d be a rebrand ahead of the midterms, a signal to swing voters that if they keep Democrats in charge of the House they won’t be getting the same old same old in 2023. It’ll be a different, younger, possibly more moderate product.

Pelosi leaving immediately after infrastructure passes would also make sense. A mega-trillion dollar package on social welfare spending would be the culmination of her long career. Stepping down during her victory lap would blunt the perception that she’s leaving because she believes Dems are going to get crushed in 2022. No doubt she does believe that, but the timing would let her spin it semi-plausibly as having nothing to do with the midterms and everything to do with wanting to go out on top, after the House had seen Biden’s domestic agenda through to passage. Leaving before the end of the year would also give the caucus almost a full 12 months to fashion a new post-Pelosi identity for itself before Americans render a judgment.

Plus, let’s face it: There won’t be much for Pelosi to do next year if she stays on. Once infrastructure passes, centrist Dems are done with spending until after the midterms. Nothing will happen in Congress in 2022, which makes it a nice low-stakes opportunity for new leadership to step in and get comfortable in the job.

And don’t forget, Pelosi’s already promised that she’d step down as Speaker by 2022. “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,” she said in a statement in 2018, after the new Dem majority agreed to give her a second turn as Speaker. Assuming she was serious about that, what’s to be gained by her sticking it out until the midterms instead of handing over the gavel upon infrastructure passing?

Heck, the prospect of sending her out with the biggest win of her career may be enough of an incentive to flip a few reluctant House Dems into the “yes” column on the package.

Exit question: Could there be something to the rumor? Pelosi’s obviously not going to stay on as minority leader again if Republicans retake the House next fall so why not leave early, on her own terms?

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