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Run of stable Democratic leadership may come to an end after 2022

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi
Joe Biden walks with Nancy Pelosi as he departs the US Capitol in Washington, on Oct. 1, 2021.Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden, 79, has said he’s planning to run for re-election in 2024, when he turns 82.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 81, will stay in her position at least until the midterms, is planning to file for re-election, and isn’t ruling out the possibility of returning to leadership after 2022, CNN reports.

The word “planning” is doing a lot of work in both paragraphs above: There’s absolutely no incentive for either Biden or Pelosi to be viewed as lame ducks right now, especially ahead of the midterms and before their “Build Back Better” social spending/climate bill is signed into law.

“Running, winning, and stepping aside at the appropriate time keeps her powder dry, avoids a run on Dem stock heading into the midterms, and sets her up to pick her successor in the special,” GOP lobbyist Liam Donovan says of Pelosi. “Not much to gain and lots to lose from tipping her hand now.”

And “planning” gives Democrats leadership stability in these unstable political times (even if it’s stability born from Democratic leadership’s unwillingness to step aside in favor of a new generation).

For all of their ups and downs in 2021, stable leadership hasn’t been a problem for Democrats. Indeed, over the last 14 years, Democratic leaders have been some combination of Barack Obama/Biden/Pelosi/Steny Hoyer/James Clyburn/Harry Reid/Chuck Schumer.

But if — or when — Biden and Pelosi exit the political stage, Democrats will have a major power vacuum on their hands.

“[A] nexus of anxious currents in the Democratic Party has stoked speculation about a possible contested primary in two years. On top of concerns about Mr. Biden’s age and present unpopularity, there is an overarching fear among Democrats of the possibility of a Trump comeback — and a determination that the party must run a strong candidate to head it off,” the New York Times writes of Biden’s ultimate decision about 2024.

“Should Mr. Biden change his mind and bow out of 2024, there is no consensus among Democrats about who the best alternative might be.”

This week’s action on Capitol Hill

“Congress must lift the debt ceiling by Wednesday and pass a massive defense bill this month. The main obstacles have largely been lifted,” NBC’s Sahil Kapur reports.

Also: “The House plans to vote to refer former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for criminal prosecution for defying a subpoena, as the Jan. 6 select committee dials up its investigation of the Capitol riot.”

The biggest unanswered question on Capitol Hill: Can Senate Democrats meet their self-imposed Christmas deadline to pass their nearly $2 trillion social spending/climate package?

“‘We have basically 49 of us in agreement to move forward. So we have one colleague we're continuing to work with, and he's been successful and making a number of changes. And so hopefully he'll be joining us," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., per Kapur.

That one Democrat not in agreement: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

800,156: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,877 since Friday morning).

75: The number of days it took for America’s Covid death toll (as calculated by NBC News) to grow from 700,000 to 800,000. By comparison, the increase from 600,000 to 700,000 took 120 days.

1 in 100: The share of all Americans at least 65-years-oldwho have died from Covid, per the New York Times.

49,934,498: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 261,436 more since Friday morning.)

484,190,896: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 6,757,131 since Friday morning.)

53,803,332: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 3,903,243 since Friday morning.)

60.8 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

72.1 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

Tweet of the day

Newsom’s tit for tat

“California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to use the same tactic as Texas' abortion law to target assault rifle sales after the Supreme Court declined to block enforcement of the law,” per NBC News.

“Newsom said in a statement Saturday that he has directed his staff to collaborate with the Legislature and Attorney General Rob Bonta to draft a bill that would allow private citizens to sue ‘anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in the State of California.’”

“‘If states can shield their laws from review by federal courts, then CA will use that authority to help protect lives,’ Newsom said on Twitter.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Jan. 6 committee issued a report recommending Mark Meadows be held in contempt of Congress; the report says Meadows said in an email that the National Guard would “protect pro Trump people” on that day.

The New York Times dives into a secret military strike force that attacked ISIS relentlessly but has also been accused of flouting rules meant to prevent civilian deaths.

Here’s what the White House is weighing as they keep watch on the omicron variant.