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Hoyer, Murtha Battle

As Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pledged Wednesday to rule the House fairly in the 110th Congress as the first-ever female Speaker, a handful of senior Democrats moved aggressively to secure other leadership posts in their nascent majority.

One day after Democrats decisively seized control of the chamber from the GOP, one of the architects of that victory — Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) — remained mum about his plans despite speculation that he could run for Majority Whip.

Current Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was not similarly hesitant, formally announcing his bid for the Majority Leader’s office early Wednesday morning and confidently predicting that he will secure the post when Democrats vote in leadership election on Nov. 16.

“I think I’m going to win,” Hoyer said in an interview Wednesday. The Maryland lawmaker, who has served as Minority Whip since 2003, said “over a majority” of House incumbents as well as newly-elected lawmakers “have indicated that they would be supportive of me.”

But Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) — who stunned fellow lawmakers when he announced in June that he would campaign for the Majority Leader post against Hoyer — re-affirmed his own interest in the office Wednesday.

“I’m working diligently now trying to convince people that I’d make a good balance” to the leadership team, Murtha said in an interview with National Public Radio.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker declined to be interviewed for this article.

Murtha, who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, also defended his decision to seek the leadership post, asserting that not only is the office an “open seat” in the new Congress, but arguing that he outranks Hoyer in the Caucus hierarchy.

“There’s Nancy Pelosi, [Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep.] Dave Obey (D-Wis.) and myself, and then Hoyer is listed after me in the power plays,” Murtha said on NPR.

That assertion bewildered at least one Democratic House lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “In my mind that shows a lack of understanding. I like Mr. Murtha but that’s not just the way it is.”

“There is real genuine concern that we don’t want to see a divisive leadership fight, just at the time that we’re seeing tremendous success and tremendous unity and harmony and good feelings in the Caucus,” the lawmaker added.

Although some Democratic lawmakers have acknowledged their support for one of the would-be Majority Leaders, neither Hoyer nor Murtha have released lists of backers.

Hoyer asserted Wednesday that doing so could create unnecessary divisions in the Caucus heading into the new session.

“My object is to keep our Caucus unified ... so I’m not going to put out any lists,” added Hoyer, who is expected to receive the support of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, as well as the New Democratic Coalition.

A group of senior lawmakers representing a broad cross-section of the Caucus — including Reps. Barney Frank (Mass.), John Dingell (Mich.), Henry Waxman (Calif.), Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), John Lewis (Ga.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.) and James Oberstar (Minn.) — issued their own letter Wednesday urging fellow Democrats to back Hoyer’s bid.

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