House Democrats adopt new caucus rules

House Democrats approved a new slate of caucus rules Tuesday aimed at limiting the time their members can serve in some leadership posts — but not the top-tier spots.

The rules package doesn’t apply to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), both of whom are not term limited in their positions. Pelosi and Hoyer have led the caucus for nearly 15 years.

Instead, the term limits apply to posts created last November after some disappointed Democrats challenged Pelosi’s leadership and demanded more opportunities for younger members.

The rules adopted Tuesday prohibit the caucus leadership representative — a member who has been in Congress five terms or less — from serving more than one term in that post.

The initial slate of rules allowed for the caucus representative to serve two terms but some members, led by Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), successfully pushed for an amendment to limit the position to one term.

Before the amendment was adopted, Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), the current member serving in that post, said he and other future representatives should be able to serve two terms, arguing four years gives someone time to grow into the position.

But Kennedy said the idea of creating the position in the first place was to provide more opportunities to members who otherwise feel shut out of caucus leadership.

Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) have both complained about the prospective rules in recent weeks leading up to today’s vote, insisting the five-terms-or-less post should be restricted to one term.

Dingell ran against Cardenas for the job last year and lost. Rice, meanwhile, has repeatedly called for a wholesale leadership change at the top. Dingell and Rice did not speak at Tuesday’s caucus meeting, according to sources in the room.

Democrats agreed to limit voting for the caucus leadership representative to lawmakers who have served in Congress five terms or less.

Democrats also have a freshman representative, another post added to the leadership roster last year. That position is currently held by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii).

The caucus also adopted a rule Tuesday limiting the time members can serve as leaders of House Democrats’ messaging arm. Members are now limited to two consecutive terms as co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The DPCC was divided into three electable co-chair positions as part of the leadership changes adopted last year. Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) are the current leaders of the group.

The Democratic Caucus has long argued over whether to adopt with term limits; unlike Republicans, House Democrats use a seniority system for some of its most coveted spots, like committee leadership posts.

In recent years, some members, particularly those elected since 2010 who have never served in the majority, have called for ranking members and other leadership positions to also be subject to term limits. But outspoken opposition from certain wings of the conference, most notably the Congressional Black Caucus, has prevented that idea from ever gaining real traction.

The package adopted Tuesday is the culmination of months of work by the the Committee on Organization, Study and Review, led by Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.). Bass and Higgins were tasked with making the longstanding caucus rules more user-friendly and clarifying the roles and term-limits for newer leadership positions.

The caucus also agreed to rename OSR the “Committee on Caucus Procedures.”


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