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Maryland is becoming the new political powerhouse in the Democratic Caucus.
With Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s selection Tuesday as the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, four of the chamber’s six Democrats now have important seats at the leadership table.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a former president of the Maryland state Senate, is the House’s No. 2 Democrat, and Marylanders Chris Van Hollen and Elijah Cummings have won posts atop the Budget Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, respectively, two panels that will be central to Democrats’ efforts to counter the GOP majority over the next two years.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who appointed Ruppersberger to the post and who twice tapped Van Hollen to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also is a Maryland native with family ties to politics in the state.
Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday it had not occurred to them how heavily Maryland was represented in leadership, but they attributed the situation largely to seniority and circumstance.
Still, Ruppersberger said the trio of other Marylanders already in key leadership positions was a concern of his when he was lobbying for the job.
“I was worried,” Ruppersberger said. “That was one of the issues that I’m sure caused concern when the decision had to be made. My only response is it’s not my fault.”
Ruppersberger, who lost a seat on the Appropriations Committee when Democrats moved into the minority, said he has been in contact with Pelosi since the beginning of the session, discussing with her his background in budgeting, national security and technical tactical experience.
“It was a tough decision for her,” Ruppersberger said, noting that other Democratic lawmakers were also vying for the position.
And it’s possible that a Maryland heritage could be a handicap should Van Hollen, Cummings or Ruppersberger aspire to elected leadership, at least as long as Hoyer stays on.
“That’s a tough one,” Cummings said when asked about the possibility that Democrats could be hesitant to put two Marylanders in elected leadership. “We just have a lot of good leader types, and they have risen to the occasion. So I just think that we’re very blessed. That’s about all I can say. ... We’ll be fine.”
Cummings won a contested race for the Oversight post and was widely seen as the favored choice of the Democratic leadership and the White House to stand up to Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
A Midwestern lawmaker cast the Maryland surge as part of the broader theme of East and West Coast Members enjoying the lion’s share of power in the Caucus.