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Nancy Pelosi (middle) with Rep. Linda Sanchez (left), Steny Hoyer (left) and Jim Crowley (right). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Younger Democrats have been calling for a new generation of leadership to replace House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But the two men who could likely replace her are treading carefully, even as the national narrative of the "Pelosi problem" heats up ahead of the 2018 election.

The latest: Reps. Joe Crowley (age 56) and Steny Hoyer (age 78) aren't exactly the fresh-faced leaders some Democrats are hoping for. But the AP's Lisa Mascaro reports one way Democrats are trying to reconcile that: Hoyer's allies are "floating the unusual idea of him becoming a short-term leader — someone who could temporarily take the helm, if and when Pelosi steps down, to ease the transition."

What they're saying: “Would I like to be speaker? Of course. Would I be disappointed if it doesn’t happen? No,” Hoyer told the AP's Mascaro. And although he's been eyeing the leadership spot for years, he is now "actively, if quietly, seeking lawmakers’ support," Mascaro writes, noting his allies are positioning him "as a possible 'bridge' leader, who might ease a transition to a next generation."

  • Meanwhile, Rep. Crowley, the #4 Democrat in the House, told Fox News' Chris Wallace "if Nancy Pelosi stays, I don’t see a scenario by which I would challenge her for that position.” But many Democrats view Crowley as the likeliest successor if Pelosi does leave.
  • Pelosi has made no indication that she will retire, even saying "I think I'm worth the trouble" after Republicans continue to tie Democratic candidates to her.

Battle lines: It's no secret that some Democrats want Pelosi to step aside; Conor Lamb earned national attention after he said he wouldn't back Pelosi if elected, and Reps. Linda Sanchez, Kathleen Rice and Tim Ryan have called for new leadership. But Pelosi's team and Democrats across the Hill praise her ability to fundraise and keep the caucus in line on tough votes.

Be smart: The last thing the Democratic Party needs is a leadership fight in addition to their ongoing civil war between moderates and progressives. This likely won't change unless more anti-Pelosi Democratic candidates emerge or Democrats win the House.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the first reference to Crowley. His first name is Joe.

Go deeper

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.

52 mins ago - Health

America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The race to figure out just how dangerous the Omicron variant is will likely be a global effort, but some experts are skeptical that the U.S. will play a dominant role.

Why it matters: The CDC has repeatedly come under fire for inadequate data collection throughout the pandemic — and figuring out how to respond to Omicron requires a lot of data that doesn't currently exist.

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.