California’s Future Without Pelosi

California may lose one of its best national political allies.
Nancy Pelosi has quietly and relentlessly advocated California-backed progressive initiatives on climate change, drought, and healthcare.

She’s credited for boosting the influence of California’s 42-member Democratic congressional delegation.

She declared this would be her last term as speaker in November 2020, but she’s since backed off. Some assume she may retire after the midterm at age 82.

California's Future Without Pelosi
California’s Future Without Pelosi

Some Californians wonder what Pelosi’s departure will imply for the state’s influence in Washington.

Pelosi may pass the speaker’s gavel to a fellow Californian, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

His Republican Party’s views in California and nationwide typically oppose those of the state’s liberal leadership and majority inhabitants.

The Biden administration might hinder McCarthy’s state priorities. His leadership would change California’s position in Washington.

Pelosi’s retirement will be “a blow to the country and to California,” said former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. It will pressure every California congressman and senator to do more.

Any federal legislation that helped or injured California in the last 15 years had to go via Pelosi’s office, politicians and aides say.

She advocated for home-state projects including high-speed rail, water, drought, and wildfire policy, and resisted Republican efforts to roll back environmental protections.

Boxer and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) credit Pelosi with reversing the “Anywhere But California” mindset in Washington.

“Members feel you can’t miss it. They communicate freely, can obtain co-sponsors, and discuss matters before the floor. A senior House aide who has worked for California lawmakers claimed the speaker stays the entire time. “That’s sacred time for delegates.”

In 2018, she agreed to leave the speakership in 2022 in order to return. She said she’d adhere by the agreement in 2020 but has evaded questioning since.

If Democrats defy forecasts of a GOP majority and keep the House after November, she may stay.

She and her office now deflect queries about when she’ll leave, stating she’s still working.LaMalfa acknowledged party differences but argued GOP measures would benefit the state.

If the House became “Republican majority, it would advance another agenda,” he stated. I think it would assist Californians.

LaMalfa said a California Republican speaker would balance the Democratic White House and Senate.

McCarthy declined to respond.

The Bakersfield Republican opposes high-speed rail and favors climate policies that weaken environmental regulations. As speaker, he might promote these positions in spending bills.

McCarthy aims to get the Save Our Sequoias Act to the House floor, which environmental groups oppose because it would skirt environmental restrictions.

McCarthy is likely to pursue new California water legislation emphasizing storage and water reallocation from Northern to Central and Southern California. He’s also anticipated to press for Shasta Dam expansion, a long-simmering subject of dispute. Pelosi has omitted the dam from government spending bills.

In recent years, the state’s influence in Washington has fluctuated. When Pelosi became speaker in 2007, George Miller and Henry A. Waxman led major committees. Boxer and Feinstein were senior senators.

Pelosi became minority leader after the 2011 House loss. Boxing’s Big Three have retired.

In 2019, when Pelosi became speaker, California’s influence rose. Pelosi and Harris sat behind Biden at the State of the Union to show California’s power.

A downturn seems imminent. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) is a rising star but lacks seniority. Feinstein quit the Judiciary Committee gavel amid worries about her readiness. If Feinstein, 89, doesn’t run again in 2024, her replacement will too.

Some California Democrats are jockeying to replace Pelosi. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) wants the No. 3 House leadership role.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) may run to replace Pelosi, but Rep. Hakeem Jeffries seems more likely (D-N.Y.).

Pelosi has given important committee roles and high-profile assignments to fellow Californians to help establish a pool of leaders for the state.

Post-Pelosi, California lawmakers will have a steeper climb.

Boxer: “If you’re new and trying to get a plum committee with a foreign speaker, it’s harder.”