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Pelosi: I Will Not Seek Reelection To Leadership. Aired 12:30- 1p ET

Aired November 17, 2022 - 12:30   ET



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): My darling children, Nancy, Karina, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra, and our grandchildren Alexandra, Madeline, Liam, Shawn, and Ryan, Paul and Tomas Bella and Octavio, they are the joys of our lives for whom we -- and we are so very, very proud of them and a comfort to us at this time.

And for my brilliant, dedicated and patriotic staff, under the leadership of Terry McAuliffe, together, working together the finest group of public servants the House has ever known. Thank you all so much.

Again, for those who sent me here for the people of San Francisco, for entrusting me with the high honor of being their voice in Congress, and this continued work, I will strive to honor the call of the patron saint of our city, St. Francis, Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

In this House, we begin each day with a prayer and a pledge to the flag. And every day, I am in awe of the majestic miracle, that is American democracy, as we participate in a hallmark of our Republic, the peaceful orderly transition from one Congress to the next, let us consider the words of again, President Lincoln spoken during one of America's darkest hours, he called upon us to come together to swell the course of the Union, when once again touched, as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature. That again, is the task at hand.

A new day is dawning on the horizon. And I look forward and always forward to the unfolding story of our nation, a story of light and love of patriotism and progress of many becoming one. And always an unfinished mission to make the dreams of today, the reality of tomorrow, thank you all. May God bless you and your families and may God bless, continue to bless our veterans and the United States of America. Thank you all so much.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Standing ovation in a moment of history on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. You are watching Democratic Party in American political history unfold right there. It was 20 years ago this month that Nancy Pelosi became the first woman ever elected party leader in the United States Congress. And just moments ago, she announced that she will step aside as leader of the House Democrats, when Republicans take charge of the House come January. You see there, the Speaker of the House who has been in Congress since 1987, being embraced by her Democratic colleagues, many members of the leadership, several members of the California delegation, there in her speech ran about 15 minutes, she retraced history of the House, she retraced her own history. Her dad was a congressman. She recalled her first visit to the Capitol at the age of six.

She said the American democracy is still under attack, but she testified to its fortitude and said many of the members there of course, remember January 6th and the insurrection on that day. Now she will step aside. At this moment, let me bring in our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, an emotional speech a nervous giggle throughout as the Speaker decided that she would hand the baton. She did say she would at least for now stay in the Congress representing her beloved San Francisco, but it's history to her step aside and it sets off a generational scramble beneath her to be the new Democratic leader in what will be in January a Republican led House.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a really, a major moment here in American political history. Someone of course, who was the first woman to lead this institution, she did it twice, she won the majority once. She lost the majority, she won it back, they just lost the majority again, she decided here that it was time for her to step aside, as she said here, passing on the baton to the new generation, another and will undoubtedly set off a scramble about what the future direction of the Democratic Party will look like.

And she didn't endorse any specific candidate to replace her. That will be one of the questions going forward as we start to assess what her departure will mean for her party. Now, we do expect probably as soon as today, that leadership race to kick off in earnest. It has been happening behind the scenes for some time, because there has been some expectation that this would be it for her, Pelosi, in order to secure the speakership a few years ago, had to cut a deal.

She said that 2022 will be our last time at the end of that year, this year will be our last time as the -- leading her caucus, he never formally shut the door. She'd been lobbied by people like the president of the United States to continue staying on as leader she probably would have had the votes to stay on if she decided to do so. But there has been an expectation that it was time for her that she would ultimately step aside.

So behind the scenes, people like Hakeem Jeffries, the New York Democrat has been talking to members, has been starting to secure some commitments for the job. He does have the support of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. There's also the -- what happens to Pelosi's current number two, Steny Hoyer, someone who has been waiting in the wings for a couple of decades, waiting to take the reins. He has very close connection to the moderates in the Democratic caucus. But does he have the support? He's in his 80s. There are a lot of younger members who are looking for younger, new generation to take the torch.

Now, it is also possible, John, we could see a top three, brand new top three in the Democratic caucus, beyond Hakeem Jeffries and number two Katherine Clark from Massachusetts, she is someone who's seen as a likely person to candidate run for the whip position. Also, Pete Aguilar, who's a member of the -- from California, those three members are seen as sort of a team that may run as sort of a block if you will. They have been talking to members seeing if they can get the support to eventually move up.

But what happens to Steny Hoyer, what happens to Jim Clyburn who's currently a member of leadership. Clyburn told me earlier this week that he would not run for the top position, but once a position in leadership. So what does that mean for the other positions here? So it is not just a game of chess, it is also significant because the people in power will drive their strategy, their party, and their policy priorities, and could potentially bring them back to power in 2024 when Democrats will have a shot to regain the majority.

But this moment, historic, the first woman house speaker stepping aside after two decades as the most prominent most dominant figure in our party but deciding now's the time to go.

KING: Mana Raju on Capitol Hill for us, Manu, standby. I want to bring in Manu's colleague. Our CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona and we're watching on the floor of the House a remarkable scene of the Speaker of the House, still the speaker of the House until January, getting embraced by so many of her Democratic colleagues. And it is a reminder, you're watching the, A, the diversity of the Democratic Party right before your eyes here, young and old, black, white and brown. But now Speaker Pelosi and her speech, Melanie noted that when she came to Congress in 1987, there were 12 women in the Democratic caucus, there are now more than 90, she said and she got a good laugh when she said and we want more.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. And she talked about going from homemaker to House maker. And the mark that she has left on the Democratic Party on all of Congress being the first female to lead either party is going to stay with her. I mean, I think we've talked a lot about the implications of what it means for the leadership if she leaves, but we should also talk about the implications of her staying on as a member of Congress and what that means. She's going to be an advisor.

Obviously, we know Nancy Pelosi is a master tactician, and that's going to be hugely important for Democrats when they have a very small majority in the Republican House. They can have a lot of power. They can make Kevin McCarthy's life pretty miserable if they stick together. We expect that Nancy Pelosi will still be advising, you know, informally behind the scenes. And also if she had stepped aside completely, it would have meant there was a temporary vacancy with her seat and that would have made Kevin McCarthy's life a little bit easier in terms of getting the speakership and votes until that seat was filled. And then finally there was also the question of who would replace her. Christine Pelosi, her daughter is someone who is rumored to want to replace her in that seat if she had to do a special election. No less time to get her together. But she'll have now theoretically two years to mount a full out campaign, so just a ton of implications but a historic moment for Democrats here, John.

KING: Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters and Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic joining our conversation. You get the first word, new to the table. It's hard to fathom, are we supposed to look forward at what will be a new generation of Democratic leadership which is a very big deal especially in a new, you're going to an aggressive House majority. Are the new leaders up to the task, if you will? Or do you look back at the remarkable history of a woman who has earned her place in the history books?


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So the story -- when she when she talked about her family, it really underscored to me that she is a living bridge between the Democratic Party that was and the Democratic Party that is becoming. I mean, we associate her with San Francisco liberalism, that's the image that she has in national politics. Her roots are in the Democratic Party of the New Deal era, when the core of the Democratic Party were blue collar workers, most of them white, many of them Catholic in urban centers, you know, it predates even the shift of African American voters predominantly, the Democratic Party.

And her career has spanned the evolution of the party from that coalition to the one that she talked about, you know, that is more diverse than ever, with women with people of color, LGBTQ and, of course, more dependent on suburbs. So in many ways, she is kind of a living expression of how the Democratic Party has changed over the past 50 years roots in one era, you know, leaving at a moment when the other era is increasingly expressing itself. To that point, she said she was six years old when she first visited the House, that would be 1946 and talked about the New Deal era Democrats. And she talked about how she saw the dome and had the wow moment.

And to this day, she says it's the most beautiful building to her in the world, not just because of how it looks but for what it represents. And then she made a point of noting, Audie, our democracy is majestic, but fragile. Even on the way out, she wanted to make sure she listed a few, make a few marks, if you will.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that's a significant chapter in her story as speaker, there's not another attack to point to that people survived. I wanted to come back to a point you made, though, think about how many Republican speakers have passed like the gavel in the time that she's done the job, you know, whether it's Newt Gingrich or John Boehner or Paul Ryan, Hastert, I mean, and she has always been there. And it's to your point about the idea of, can you manage the changes in your party? Can you figure out how to corral people in the big tent? And right now, if you look at that raw score, she has been able to accomplish that, in a way maybe her Republican cohorts have not.

KING: And so, Manu and Melanie, both talking about the big questions, does Steny Hoyer tried to stay as the number two or tried to move up to number one? What happens to Jim Clyburn, a distinguished member of the Black Caucus, a man who is very close to the President of the United States, helped him very much in the 2020 primaries? So do you have a full generational shift in the Democratic Party? Or do you have a partial shift? That jockeying is just to begin. I just want to show our viewers, three leading contenders to move up now that Nancy Pelosi is stepping aside in the leadership.

Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who has been a key Pelosi deputy, Katherine Clark, another key Pelosi deputy and friend, Pete Aguilar, one of the members of the California delegation for whom Nancy Pelosi is the both a leader and an example. The question is the Republicans are going to have, we don't know the final numbers, the Republicans are going to have a very small majority, perhaps three or four or five seats at the most.

So there's an opportunity to get the majority back just two years down the road of the next election. So you're going to have new leaders who have to, A, on a policy and a political and an investigative level deal with a very aggressive House Republican majority, but also try to delay the building blocks of the next campaign.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right, and I mean, these -- those three, if that if that is the lineup, and we don't know obviously if it will be. There is going to be a lot of jockeying going on. We understand we may hear from Steny Hoyer later today. No question Hakeem Jeffries has been making it clear he wants the top job. And that is what that looks like the diverse Tableau that Nancy Pelosi was talking about, right? If Hakeem Jeffries is the leader, he would be the first leader of color ever, of either party in Congress. Katherine Clark is a woman. Pete Aguilera is Latino.

You know, there's a lot of diversity there. But they're also not completely untested, right? They've been in leadership. They've been in the junior layer of leadership for a while. But none of them can come close to the kind of skill that Nancy Pelosi has in corralling this caucus. And they are going to need that unity to be an effective counter against the Republican majority in the House. And they do have an opportunity to really wreak havoc with some of what they want to do, because the margin is so small, but you have to know what you're doing.

And so it's going to be interesting to see if they are, if that is who ends up being the top leaders will they be able to scale that learning curve.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And with Pelosi staying, again, she could help them wreak havoc also, multiple lawmakers told me this morning that they expected Steny Hoyer to stay. Now whether or not he stays in the same format that Pelosi is staying in which is staying in his seat but not in leadership. We may not hear that until later. I know that a lot of the lawmakers that I was talking to today, were saying that they very much seem to really be itching for Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and this new generation of potential leaders.


BROWNSTEIN: The case for generational transition is really overwhelming. I mean you look at the election results, and Democrats are really a party of 40. The oldest millennials, I hate to break it, are like 41 now. And that is the Democratic Party. I mean, their strength is among Gen Z and millennials who passed the baby boomers and older in 2020, as a share of eligible voters for the first time. And in 2024, it will pass them in all likelihood as a chair of actual voters. And the idea that a party that is so dependent on a younger, diverse secular, America is, you know, so reliant on leaders in their 70s. And by 2024, 80s, just seems pretty dissonant at this point.

CORNISH: And just not to quibble with history, but she beats Steny Hoyer to leadership, you know, and that's part of her sort of theory of politics. She has said, you have to take power. It's not going to be given to you. And I think that's something to keep in mind when you think about her legacy and sort of how she approached the job.

KING: And so to that very point, the question is do the others too, do Clyburn and Hoyer take a cue here, that it's time for generational change? There's been talk for years, you know, literally, you back the Obama --

BROWNSTEIN: For like a generation.

KING: Would they all three go together? Would they kind of deal to go together, of course?

CORNISH: I don't see her leaving it incomplete disarray.

KING: So did they take the cue? Or do they see the opening? I guess, is the question.

DAVIS: Well, I mean, I don't know it sounds from the Democrats, I've talked to recently, it certainly seems like Steny Hoyer, who has been wanting that job for a very long time. And Nancy Pelosi did beat him for it would very much like to have it. But the question is whether he's going to actually go for it and make that fight. If it looks like the majority of the caucus is going in a different direction. And there is a real hunger. The thing that's so interesting, though, is you know, because the three of them have been at the top for so long, she really is the fulcrum. It's kind of difficult to imagine the two of them, Hoyer and Clyburn, figuring out a way to stay on in the senior roles without her kind of holding things together, because the skill sets are just not the same, right?

I mean, she did a lot of whipping. Clyburn is the whip but she did -- Nancy Pelosi did a lot of the whipping, you know, Steny Hoyer is the majority leader, leader, she did a lot of the mechanics of running the House that a majority -- not that they didn't do their jobs, but it was very much a team operation. And it's a little bit difficult to imagine how you take off the top member of that team and it stays intact. KING: Right, to that point, Manu Raju, if you're still with us, you mentioned at the top of the program, your conversation with the chairwoman of the Black Caucus in the House, who said that I wanted to out of respect wait to see what Nancy Pelosi said, but believe that every member of the Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries? Do I read into that? I assume that James Clyburn, who has incredible influence among the fellow members of the Black Caucus had given his blessing to that. The question is, does he stay, you know, does he tried to stay as the number three? Or is he part of the transition?

RAJU: You know, I asked Clyburn, that specific question just yesterday? Could it be the day before it all blends together? But it was definitely this week when I asked Clyburn, that question. And he said he hadn't this, he had not made a decision yet about whether to what position within leadership to seek. Now there is some expectation that perhaps that there could be some sort of ceremonial roles, some advisory role that Leader Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi have created in the system. Speaker role for him was essentially the number three position within the Democratic leadership. He's of course the Democratic whip.

They'll -- whether there can be some sort of role like that an assistant leader position, we'll see. But we do -- it is it safe to say that those three members that you showed up on your screen, John, Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, Pete Aguilar are head and shoulders, the favorites to become the next, the next top three members of this Democratic caucus. That is the expectation among members. It's hard to see that changing even though they may have a challenge. And of course, there's a secret ballot election that will occur on November 30th. So ultimately, members can vote however they want.

KING: They can vote however they want. To that point now, Melanie Zanona still with us on Capitol Hill. And Melanie, we know that President Biden in his conversation with Speaker Pelosi encouraged her to stay. And you can certainly understand that. Again, she helped shepherd his agenda through the House with a very narrow majority. You can always trust her math. And you always want her judgment and her opinion. I understand you have some reporting, that the leader across the aisle in the Congress also said maybe you should stay.

ZANONA: Yes, that's exactly right. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, he was in the audience. He was on the floor for this historic speech. And he told her colleagues walking off the floor that he wanted her to stay and that when he heard the news, he told her as much. It's the same thing Biden apparently told Pelosi as well. And, you know, this has been a sentiment across the Democratic caucus, especially after the strong midterm showing that Democrats have had was that she could have stayed around if she wanted to and that she could have made a run to continue to lead the Democratic caucus. She's a master tactician. She's a prolific fundraiser. She's been such an integral part of the Democratic Party.


A lot of Democrats who are in Congress right now only know Pelosi as their leader. She's been there for decades. But you know, obviously, she's still going to be around as I mentioned earlier, so she will be able to advise from behind the scenes. But, you know, for Chuck Schumer, he's worked with Pelosi for many years, they have a great working relationship together. They've helped shepherd some historic legislation across the finish line. But if Hakeem Jeffries does ultimately run and take the position, it would be another New Yorker that Chuck Schumer could work with, so another working relationship to look out for there, John.

KING: Right, for all their talk about its California and said New Yorkers, maybe it'll just be New Yorkers now running the top position of the Democratic Party. We'll watch that one play out. Let's go to the White House now. Our correspondent Arlette Saenz is there. Arlette, the President United States not only losing a friend to top the House, but somebody who as I noted earlier, is a superb vote counter or has been a superb and trusted ally to President Biden. I assume he got some heads up this was coming even though he didn't want it to happen.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the White House said just moments ago that President Biden did speak with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning before she made that speech. And that in that phone call, he congratulated her on her tenure as his her historic tenure, they said, as House Speaker. Now, we will see whether President Biden will offer a more fulsome statement in the coming hours.

But just a few weeks ago, he did hail Speaker Pelosi as quote the single best speaker, I think, in American history. And that is really also based on this relationship that you've seen between President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It's a relationship that they've cultivated for more than three decades serving alongside each other in the House and Senate.

And then when Biden was vice president under President Obama, she served as house speaker and then once again, when he became president here. She has helped usher in so many pieces of legislation that have been critical to President Biden's agenda and also dating back to the Obama administration, if you remember her critical role when it came to the Affordable Care Act. So certainly, this is a bittersweet moment also for President Biden personally. They share so many common traits, both being Institutionalists. Also devout Roman Catholics, they were on hand together at the Capitol when Pope Francis visited back in 2015.

Sources have said that the President has asked her, had said that he hoped that she would stay on in some Democratic leadership posts. But today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing that she will not seek that reelection as a leader.

KING: That's a challenge to the White House as the President United States prepares for divided government and a Republican majority. Arlette Saenz at the White House, thank you. Let's bring the conversation back in the room. She has been known to most Americans in recent years as the speaker or as the leader. But as Arlette noted, as it came up at the table earlier, she has been in the House since 1987, representing San Francisco. I was thinking about this last night. Well, we knew this was likely to happen today. We weren't sure how it was going to turn out. But we knew the speech was likely to happen.

And to me the connective tissue in her career as children and China in the sense that she has always pushed programs to help children whether education programs, health programs that you heard her talk about as a mother and a grandmother and as a daughter of a politician. But she also in part because of her district, but in part because of her work on the Intelligence Committee has been a fierce critic of China for years, sometimes a lonely voice in the Congress about human rights and about, you know, political reforms, indignities, and treatment of people.

DAVIS: Yes, I mean, she was anti-China before anti-China was like a cool thing to be on Capitol Hill, which it's becoming again now that, you know, China has become a rising issue geopolitically for the United States. But back in the 80s, when she was first in Congress, she did go to China and she unfurled that banner in Tiananmen Square.

KING: I believe that pictures of that is to speak.

DAVIS: She's been talking about human rights and human rights abuses by China for a very long time. And that has been a through line of her career. The other thing is, you know, one of the reasons that she was able to really transition into leadership in the way that she was and stay there is she did do a lot of the legislative spadework both on the Appropriations Committee. But on the Intelligence Committee, she really sort of knew the policy. She was not just -- she was a very prolific and has been a very prolific fundraiser and political operator, but she really has dug into the policy with her sort of membership on those committees. And that has also been a big through line for her.


CORNISH: -- when the children and the China thing for a moment just when she had her hand in the assault weapons ban, there is no Obama care without her, tarp, you know, the financial meltdown. She was there for the most consequential moments of the last 15 years legislatively. And to that end, I kind of don't -- I know people like to say like she's a spunky grandma who just happened to get there. And to me that's like the antithesis of her story. Like her story is a person who is in a political family who rose to political power and has held on to it as she wants to.


KING: She may be a spunky grandmother, but she works hard. She has worked it hard. I want to --

CORNISH: But that's what people who like her love her.

KING: Right. She does the work, which is why they respect her. I was going to make a point you were an intelligence point about I was covering the Bush, the George W. Bush White House. They had a great deal of respect for her work on the Intelligence Committee after 911. And in days like that, now let's get straight up to Capitol Hill. Our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, Manu, I asked you earlier, would there be a domino effect here? Tell us what you know.

RAJU: Yes, there is significant news here. Steny Hoyer, the current number two in the Democratic leadership is tells his colleagues, he will not seek a position in elected Democratic leadership in the new Congress. That essentially paves the way for a significant shake up in the top -- in the Democratic ranks in the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi's decision here. Steny Hoyer has been serving along with Nancy Pelosi for those past two decades has been vital -- he's been currently the house majority leader, someone who has seen as a potential next speaker here, but indicating he will not run for the Democratic leadership position, the House minority leader position, he's saying to his colleagues that instead he'll go back to his work in the Appropriations Committee, but he decided not to seek elected leadership and the 180th Congress. So domino effect here indeed, John.

KING: A remarkable day in American history in Democratic Party history transition, generational transition now to happen. Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics throughout this breaking news. Ana Cabrera will pick up this important breaking news coverage after a quick break.