Foster: I won't support Pelosi as speaker without a succession plan
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster remains opposed to Nancy Pelosi's bid to reclaim her role as House speaker unless she agrees to a succession plan to eventually relinquish the gavel.
On the day after Pelosi easily won her party's nomination for speaker in a secret-ballot caucus vote, Foster, a Naperville Democrat, said he would support her only if she agrees to demands to set a time frame for stepping aside to allow a "new generation of leadership."
"This is not at all personal," Foster said Thursday. "It's more institutional that the top three positions in leadership being stagnant for 16 years is simply an unhealthy situation for our party and our country."
Foster joined a group of 16 dissidents who signed a letter last week against Pelosi's return to the speaker's chair. Foster said he doesn't expect any political repercussions from challenging the House minority leader known for wielding her considerable influence with opponents.
And at least one political observer says Foster's stance could actually raise his stature in Congress.
Facing no challenger, Pelosi, 78, secured the Democratic nomination in a 203-32 vote Wednesday. Also unopposed were Rep. Steny Hoyer, 79, the choice for majority leader, and Rep. James Clyburn, 78, for majority whip. That's the same trio that held the top leadership posts in the last Democratic-held House.
But Pelosi needs a majority when the full House, Republicans included, choose a speaker in a floor vote Jan. 3. With Democrats headed to 235 seats, the California congresswoman could afford to lose only 17 Democratic votes. The Washington Post has reported that 22 Democrats have made firm statements of opposition.
Foster said Pelosi will have his vote as long as she puts an end date on her tenure as speaker. He wouldn't say how long that time should be, but some members have called for a "range of a few months to a single term as an upper limit."
"I think it's very likely that a number of votes, including mine, we would be willing to cheerfully vote for all three leadership positions with an understanding that there would be a succession plan with a defined time frame," he said.
Pelosi has so far resisted those calls for a transition plan, arguing it would relegate her to lame-duck status as House Democrats try to present a united front against President Donald Trump.
"As long as there is no discussion of a succession plan, there is very little room to negotiate," said Foster, who wouldn't say how he voted in the caucus election. "If a succession plan is on the table, then I think there's a lot of room to negotiate."
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Evanston Democrat, told The Hill Pelosi allies are privately "making it clear within their own delegations what the costs are of … not cooperating."
"Women are really angry about this," Schakowsky told the political website. "These individuals who are fighting us have a price to pay."
Foster, a former particle physicist who this month won his fourth term in the 11th Congressional District, dismissed the idea he is making a politically risky move.
"I think he probably has raised his stature in Congress by this action," said Dick Simpson, a University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor.
Could Pelosi strip Foster of his committee assignments as retribution? In the new Congress, Foster said he assumes he will keep his seats on the House Financial Services Committee and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Given Foster's seniority and reputation as a rational speaker and "major scientist" in Congress, Simpson doesn't expect Foster to lose those roles.
"You don't want to attack members of your own party if you can help it," Simpson said. "There's enough fight with the Trump administration. That's where she will focus her attention."
As for a Pelosi alternative, Foster said there's no shortage of potential successors. He also called Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chosen Wednesday as the Democratic Caucus Chair, a "rising star."
"When you look at all of the members who are stepping up into leadership positions or even campaigning for leadership positions inside the caucus, it's absolutely clear that there are multiple, very talented, thoughtful candidates who would be fully capable of stepping up into the speakership," he said.