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November 17, 2010

Hoyer keeps second spot in Dem leadership

Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer retained his spot as the second-ranking member in the House Democratic hierarchy. His new title, effective in January: House Minority Whip.

Hoyer had hoped to move up and many Democrats, in Congress and out, had expected that to happen after Democrats suffered a wipeout in the 2010 midterm election.

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will remain atop the Democratic leadership ladder as the next Minority Leader. Rep. Heath Shuler, a moderate Democrat from North Carolina, waged a largely symbolic challenge against the Baltimore-born speaker. Because the new, shrunken House Democratic caucus is even more liberal than the group currently in power, he never stood a chance of winning.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina was designated as the party's assistant leader in the House, a new position created by Pelosi to avert a divisive clash between Clyburn, the most senior African American in Congress, and Hoyer, both of whom initially sought the Whip spot.

Earlier this month, Pelosi surprised many of her colleagues by deciding to remain in power, rather than stepping down as some recent Speakers have done after their party lost power. Other House speakers, most notably Sam Rayburn, chose instead to become minority leader and waited to become speaker again after their party regain the majority.

The upshot of today's action: House Democrats have opted to resist change and instead leave their aging top leadership intact (the trio at the top is composed of veteran politicians in their 70s).

They did this despite calls from some Democrats for a shakeup after the stomping their party received at the polls this month. On Election Day, Republicans picked up the largest number of House seats since the 1930s and left Democrats at their lowest ebb in the House in more than six decades.

Critics, including some defeated Democratic congressmen, have said the party's chances of regaining power will be hindered by having the same faces in leadership positions. Their concern is that Democrats will have a more difficult time recruiting candidates for the 2012 election, when Republicans could decide to revive the anti-Pelosi campaign they waged aggressively this fall.

A couple hours after the meeting began, the House Democrats voted by secret ballot, 129-68, to proceed with the election of leaders today. An anti-Pelosi faction, which according to that tally appears to represent more than a third of the Democratic caucus, wanted to postpone the election until next month, which could have given opposition more time to make its case, but the move was rejected by the Pelosi forces.

She went on to win election as Minority Leader by a vote of 150 to 43.

Earlier, Rep. John Larson of Connecticut was re-elected caucus chairman by a voice vote. That position had been considered third-ranking in the leadership until the new post was created for Clyburn.

Pelosi has a history of creating positions to get things done inside the caucus. Two years ago, she made Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen one of her assistants in the course of persuading him to serve another two-year term as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which everyone knew would be a thankless task going in -- and it was.

Posted by Paul West at 3:17 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland election 2010


How will Sun readers respond to Mr. West describing the election results as a "wipeout" and a "stomping". Get ready for the hate mail!

I think Steny Hoyer would have been a much better Minority Leader for the Democrats. Now the Democrats get to deal with being labeled as "San Francisco liberals" for an infinite number of extra campaign cycles. Pelosi has done a good job passing all of the President's agenda, but being from one of the most liberal districts in the country was always a weakness for all the Democrats.

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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