Newly elected House Democratic leaders vowed to quickly reunify their Caucus in the wake of a bitter leadership contest last week, but offered few details and left some rank-and-file Members questioning how the party will mend its divisions as it prepares to take control of the chamber in the 110th Congress.
“We’ve had our debates. We’ve had our disagreements in that room, but now that is over,” Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said Thursday following a closed-door meeting at which Democrats elected Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) to be Majority Leader, defeating Pelosi’s close ally and preferred candidate, Rep. John Murtha (Pa.).
But at least a few Democratic lawmakers remained angry Thursday over allegedly heavy-handed tactics employed by Murtha supporters in the contest, and others publicly suggested that House leaders could have a difficult time alleviating any lingering bruises.
“I think the Caucus is fractured,” Rep. Allen Boyd (Fla.), who will be a co-chairman of the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition in the 110th Congress, said Thursday, adding, Pelosi’s “biggest challenge is figuring out how to wrap her arms around all the Caucus.”
Several Members, however, asserted that with the election completed Democrats will focus on readying their legislative agenda, rather than dwell on differences. “We just want to move forward,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), who endorsed Hoyer in the race.
“The majority of us in the Caucus didn’t see this as a battle between Steny and Nancy,” said Rep. Mike Ross (Ark.), another incoming Blue Dog co-chairman. “By the time we get back on Dec. 4, you’ll see a reunited Democratic Party.”
One Democratic lawmaker, who requested not to be identified, evaluated the outcome of the election by stating that the Speaker-in-waiting “has more egg on her face than a broken arm.” But the Democrat added that to return the Caucus to unity, Pelosi must exert as much effort privately as she has pledged in public.
“If people want to continue this, then we’ll know. ... Nancy will set the tone,” the lawmaker said.
At least one House Democrat who backed Murtha in the contest, Rep. Jim Moran (Va.), had alluded Thursday to the possibility that lawmakers who had pledged support to Murtha privately but cast their ballots otherwise could face retribution when committee assignments are distributed.
“It remains to be seen whether all their wishes for committee assignments will be fulfilled,” Moran said, referring to the freshman Democratic lawmakers, nearly two-thirds of which are believed to have supported Hoyer in the race by some estimates.
But while top Democrats on nine House committees endorsed Hoyer’s bid, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), who had endorsed Murtha, said he expects those Members will shore up Pelosi’s leadership when they hold the gavels next year.
“Many of the ... to-be-chairpersons are going to make sure she’s a strong Speaker,” he said Thursday, adding of any lingering animosity: “It doesn’t continue ... We continue to move forward.”
The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), is expected to establish its membership for the 110th Congress in coming weeks, and will begin work in December on the selection of committee chairmen, as well as panel assignments for rank-and-file Members.