A senior House Democrat said Thursday that it's time for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her leadership team to prepare to step down and make way for the next generation of lawmakers in her caucus.
The comments by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who as vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus ranks fifth in the 194-member body, are the most explicit to date by a senior congressional Democrat and a member of the California congressional delegation about Pelosi's political future.
Pelosi, 77, has served in Congress since 1987 and has led House Democrats for 14 years. She served as House speaker from 2007 to 2011, and has remained atop her caucus ever since as minority leader. In recent weeks, she has emerged as an unlikely partner of President Donald Trump in debates over spending bills and the future of immigration policy.
But Pelosi faced a stronger-than-anticipated challenge to her leadership post last fall after the 2016 elections, when 63 members of her caucus voted instead for Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who mounted an upstart bid to unseat her just days before. In the months since, Pelosi has created new leadership posts for younger and newer lawmakers in a bid to appease their concerns that there are few opportunities for advancement as long as Democrats remain mired in the minority.
On Thursday, Sanchez signaled in a television interview that the generational rift remains.
"I do think we have this real breadth and depth of talent within our caucus and I do think it's time to pass a torch to a new generation of leaders and I want to be a part of that transition," Sanchez said on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" in an interview conducted by reporters with The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. "I want to see that happen. I think we have too many great members here that don't always get the opportunities that they should. I would like to see that change."
Pressed to clarify her comments, Sanchez went further and said that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., who have been part of Pelosi's leadership team for more than a decade, also should prepare to step down.
"They are all of the same generation and again, their contributions to the Congress and the caucus are substantial. But I think there comes a time when you need to pass that torch. And I think it's time," she said.
Hoyer, 78, has served in Congress since 1981 and as Pelosi's deputy since she took the top spot in 2003. Clyburn, 77, has been in Congress since 1993 and served as House majority whip when Democrats controlled the House from 2007 to 2011, and as "assistant Democratic leader" since 2011.
Aides to Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn had no immediate comment.
In an interview with The New York Times last week, Pelosi signaled that she might have been thinking about leaving Congress, but felt compelled to stay.
"One of the reasons I stayed here is because I thought Hillary Clinton would win, we'd have a woman president and so there would be a woman not at a seat at the table, but at the head of the table for the world," Pelosi told the Times.
"We wanted to have a woman president," she added. "But when we didn't, then I couldn't walk away and say, okay, just let all the men have the seats at the table that are making decisions for our country."
Sanchez said she didn't know whether Pelosi could survive another challenge to her leadership position, but also said she didn't know who might step up and seek to serve as Democratic leader. But, she added, "I think I'm well-placed to help make that transition to a new generation of leadership."
Sanchez, 48, has served in Congress since 2003, representing parts of eastern Los Angeles County. She was elected vice chairman of the Democratic caucus last year and previously served as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.