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It’s not often that you hear any House Democrat holding up Harry Reid, of all people, as a model.
But that’s what some House Democrats are doing privately as they grumble that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has avoided any significant Caucus shake-ups since Democrats suffered historic losses in the midterm elections.
“If you just look at the things that happened since she’s been [elected Minority] Leader, she hasn’t changed anyone around her,” one senior Democratic aide said. “She’s surrounded herself with people who are unflaggingly loyal but don’t have the same work ethic she does.”
On the other hand, the aide said Senate Majority Leader Reid appears to be trying to completely restructure his caucus, even though the Senate stayed in Democratic hands on Nov. 2. The Nevada Democrat has shaken up his staff, including by replacing his chief of staff, and publicly turned over policy and messaging coordination duties to the No. 3 Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.). Reid asked Schumer, who serves as Conference vice chairman, to lead a newly reformulated Democratic Policy Committee — a role that gives him oversight of Caucus communications.
Pelosi, meanwhile, has sought to deflect any blame for the party’s losses away from her leadership — pointing instead to the almost 10 percent unemployment rate and a flood of outside money that influenced outcomes. The California Democrat, who has taken a lot of heat for deciding to stand as party leader in the minority next Congress, has argued that Democrats must communicate better with the public so voters understand their positions, but so far she has given no indication of what changes she plans to implement.
If anything, Pelosi has so far seemed to consolidate her hold on the Caucus, rewarding and protecting her inner circle.
Pelosi’s pick of Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.) to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ahead of Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) or Joe Crowley (N.Y.), both of whom raised far more money for the DCCC, was seen as one such play, aides said. Pelosi also has protected her longtime allies Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), engineering their retention as the co-chairmen of the Steering and Policy Committee. Israel, Miller and DeLauro led Caucus efforts to retain Pelosi as Minority Leader next year.
“Nancy Pelosi has a small cadre of loyalists,” one Democratic lobbyist said. “She came to the dance with them, she’s going to go down with them and she’s never going to change that.”