House Democrats will not choose their leaders for the next Congress until at least a month after the Nov. 6 elections, prolonging a potentially divisive battle for control of the caucus after a high-stakes midterm cycle.
Democrats did not choose a specific date for the leadership elections but decided that they will not take place before Dec. 5, a Democratic aide confirmed by email. The decision was made by voice vote Tuesday at a party caucus meeting.
The leadership elections will carry substantial weight if Democrats win control of the House, allowing rank-and-file lawmakers to pick who will set the agenda in the lower chamber for the next two years. Democrats have a clear shot at winning the majority, needing to flip roughly two dozen seats. About 50 House races are considered competitive this cycle.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to launch a bid for speaker if Democrats take control. Pelosi, 78, and other longtime party chiefs have faced calls to step aside and allow younger leaders to run the caucus, although it is not clear the next generation will have enough support to seriously challenge them.
House Republicans face their own measure of uncertainty with Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) retiring and his two deputies — Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — vying for support to replace him.
One Democratic leadership position is guaranteed to be open, after Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) lost his primary last month. Two Californians — Reps. Barbara Lee and Linda T. Sánchez — already have declared themselves candidates to replace him.
Pelosi had previously recommended the caucus’s leadership elections take place after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Democratic aide said in the email.