(December 28, 2021) — Clint Halftown, the federally recognized leader of the Cayuga Nation of New York, has privately asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to step aside from the Speakership post as soon as possible but certainly prior to next spring’s congressional primaries.
Pelosi has made no guarantees but has expressed privately that she is “actively considering her retirement plans.”
Halftown is concerned that Pelosi’s national unpopularity, lackluster leadership during the current congress, and her lack of a substantial message of accomplishment going into the midterms, worsen the Democrats’ chances of retaining their narrow control of the House of Representatives.
Pelosi’s office declined to comment on the conversation.
Halftown believes that Pelosi should step aside by the end of January so that House Democrats have an opportunity to rebrand the caucus and hone a fresh message with a younger, less polarizing standard-bearer.
Halftown is not alone. More than two dozen tribal leaders have made personal appeals to Pelosi in recent months insisting that she step aside — and they’ve been coalescing around the prospective Speakership candidacy of Rep. Sharice Davids, a centrist Democrat from Kansas.
They believe that Davids, 42, would represent a generational passing of the torch, which they say is necessary to rebrand House Democrats’ in light of horrific polling numbers.
That she represents a suburban district in the ‘heartland’ of the country may help House Democrats craft a message that is more appealing to the midsection of the country, Halftown argues.
Pelosi turns 82 years old on March 26, 2022.
Several senior Democrats in Congress believe that Pelosi has been delaying a retirement announcement until her birthday celebration, where she had been planning to make the announcement as a surprise. But with COVID concerns escalating, those plans remain in flux.
Pelosi’s leadership of the House has not been a particularly fruitful endeavor for Native American communities, who are forced to seek federal approvals on even the most minor of governance and economic development issues.
Just last year, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer had agreed to allow tribal leaders the permanent, full, and unrestricted use of the Old Senate Chamber, which hasn’t been used in more than 100 years and functions merely for historic preservation purposes.
Although Schumer had signaled to several tribal leaders that usage of the chamber would be forthcoming, Pelosi refused to sign off on the arrangement, insisting that Schumer leave the issue for her to fundraise on during the midterms.
Despite twice serving as Speaker, Pelosi refused to establish a permanent House Committee on Indian Affairs, has never allowed the Indian Bank Regulatory Act to come to the floor for a vote, and has never accepted one of the many invitations from tribal leaders that she has received to visit Indian reservations.
“Pelosi had time to lead a congressional delegation to Syria to talk with Assad, but she’s never been willing to lead a congressional delegation to Indian Country to talk to us,” explains.
“She has time to make pronouncements about the Armenian genocide, but never has time to recognize the genocide of North America’s indigenous people,” he adds.
The behavior left a deep distaste of Pelosi in Indian Country.
Many tribes have been looking to cultivate political champions in Washington who understand indigenous sovereignty and who are capable of educating their congressional colleauges. Davids, along with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, are substantial projects in that endeavor.