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.