The pending retirement of veteran Rep. George Miller has set off speculation that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may be ending her 12-year run as the leader of the chamber's Democratic Conference after this year's midterm elections are over.
The two California Democrats are close allies and Miller's announcement Monday that he plans to retire at the end of his 20th term in January is seen by some on Capitol Hill as clear evidence that the party has given up hope
of retaking control of the House in November, according to Roll Call columnist David Hawkings.
Miller has been an ardent and influential supporter of Pelosi, acting as her adviser, her confidant, and even at times her travel companion.
"At best, with Miller gone it will be considerably lonelier at the top for her, at least in the short term," Hawkings wrote Monday. "At worst, things will be considerably more dangerous if she wants to remain in leadership."
Miller, who launched his career in Congress at 29, has been backing Pelosi since she made her first bid for party leader in 1999. His powerful position as the decade-long head of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which constructs legislative policy, has also helped to strengthen Pelosi's status as the House Democratic leader.
Miller, 68, has also been chairman or ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee for the past 13 years, and previously was the ranking member of the committee on National Resources for a decade. He also founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1991 and also chaired a select House committee on children and family issues.
Pelosi's power base in Washington has appeared to be on the wane ever since the death of Pennsylvania’s John Murtha four years ago, Hawkings noted. Now with Miller's exit, Pelosi's inner sanctum will take an even greater hit.
"Nobody is obviously positioned to take the lead in shielding her from rivals, rallying support behind her and otherwise playing the heavy the way the unapologetically combative and physically imposing Miller did," Hawkings said.
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