Less than a year ago, President Barack Obama predicted that House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would be Speaker of the House of Representatives again after the 2014 elections. Less than two months ago, he was still fundraising for Democratic candidates by telling donors that the country needed her as Speaker. Yet today, it is clearer than ever that she will never regain that post, after the retirement of a key congressional ally.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who represents part of the East Bay near San Francisco and is regarded inside the Beltway as “Pelosi’s strong arm,” revealed Monday that he will be leaving the House after forty years in office. It was only the latest of several Democrat retirements, and is a sign that party leaders are despairing of taking back the House after the fateful 2010 election, which handed redistricting to Republicans in many states.
Pelosi clung to the leadership after that election, fending off challenges from moderate Democrats such as former NFL quarterback Rep. Health Shuler (D-NC), who lost his seat in 2012. As Speaker, she centralized control over legislation–much as Senate counterpart Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has done–and forced through laws that proved unpopular, such as Obamacare, while accelerating federal spending at a record-breaking pace.
Though Pelosi herself shows no inclination to step down, the prospect of another seven years in the minority is less than enticing to many senior legislators. Not even the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency is enough to convince them to stay: even Obama’s large margin in 2012, after all, left the House in Republican hands. With the Democrat-held Senate increasingly likely to fall, more retirements may be coming in both houses.