Black Caucus huddles as talk of term limits heats up

Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) huddled Monday night in the Capitol as the push for term limits for committee chairmanships and leadership spots heats up among House Democrats.

A number of senior CBC members are in line to take committee gavels next Congress and the group has quickly rallied against the notion that gavels would be term-limited just as they’re about to ascend to those chairmanship seats.

Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government Overnight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Calif.), who’s seeking another stint as House Speaker, has been in talks with members of a small group of anti-Pelosi insurgents about adopting a cap on the number of years an individual lawmaker could retain a committee gavel or leadership post.

Those proposals could both assuage clamor among younger members for more influence within the caucus and help Pelosi pick off some opponents threatening to block her path to the Speaker’s gavel.

The Democrats are scheduled to meet in the Capitol Tuesday morning, when the topic of term-limits is sure to arise.

To get a jump on that discussion, Reps. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondPressure on K Street to reflect growing diversity in Congress DeGette dropped from chief deputy whip spot Pelosi divides Democrats with term-limit proposal MORE (D-La.), the CBC chairman, and Karen BassKaren Ruth BassHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House Democrats offer measures to censure Steve King Congressional Black Caucus calls for Steve King to be removed from committees MORE (D-Calif.), who will lead the group next year, met Monday night with a handful of soon-to-be committee chairmen who are members of the caucus to plot a path forward.

Each lawmaker approached afterward said they oppose the idea of capping committee chairmanships and the group thinks that race is underlying the debate.

“Why now? Why are we having this debate now as opposed to having a more thoughtful process? Our newly elected members are not here. And generally for African Americans, the frustrating thing is every time we get to the point where we’re making significant progress, the rules change,” Richmond told The Hill after the CBC meeting. “That was the sentiment of my ranking members who will be come committee chairs, but an overwhelming majority of committee chairs — black, white, Hispanic, Asian — are against it too.

“Who is this being driven by? What is this a solution to? What’s the problem that this solves? I have not heard anyone articulate a problem that it solves.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonCongress can stop the war on science Black Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority K Street works to court minority lawmakers MORE (D-Texas), who will lead the Science, Space and Technology Committee, had a similar message.

“I’ve worked through the system, worked up the system, followed every rule, and then all of the sudden we’re facing a change,” she said. “It’s not the first experience as an African American to actually have like that.”

Asked if the move to term limit committee chairmanships is based in race, Johnson said that, at the very least, the public perception is such.

“I don’t know if that’s it,” she said, “but the public interprets it that way.”

Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonLast-minute deal extends program to protect chemical plants Trump’s polls sag amid wall fight TSA reports twice the normal rate of security officers calling in sick MORE (D-Miss.), who’s poised to chair the Homeland Security Committee, also advocated for keeping the status quo.

“I came here with an understanding of what the rules were,” he said, “and I don’t see any need to change them.”

Also attending Monday’s CBC meeting were Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Financial system can forge bipartisanship in Congress Ocasio-Cortez, freshmen poised to take on Wall Street MORE (D-Calif.), who will chair the Financial Services Committee next year, and Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Key House Dem: I don't want to 'punish' drug companies House Dems fire first salvo in drug pricing fight MORE (D-Md.), who will head the Oversight and Government Reform panel.

Tuesday’s meeting of the full Democratic caucus begins at 9 a.m.