After back-to-back terms as leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen is now the top Democrat on the Budget Committee.
“It would be disingenuous not to say that I see that concentration of power because it’s been one of the concerns I’ve had when it’s concentrated on both coasts, and you don’t see anything out of the Midwest,” the lawmaker said. “I think there was that feeling, especially from the Midwest who was decimated, that it was far more coastal.”
The Republican leadership, by contrast, has a heavy representation from the middle of the country, the lawmaker said, noting Speaker John Boehner is from Ohio and the chairmen of the Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Budget panels all hail from the Midwest.
But the lawmaker added that the Maryland situation might simply “say something about what the state is doing as a bench for talent,” adding, “I certainly have full confidence in these people.”
California and New York, in particular, have in recent years dominated Democratic leadership ranks, in part because those states have large populations and a high number of Democrat-leaning districts. Pelosi, Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra, Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman and Education and Workforce ranking member George Miller are among the powerful Californians, and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel and Rules ranking member Louise Slaughter are just two of the powerful New Yorkers. Pelosi on Tuesday tapped fellow Californian Linda Sánchez to serve as the top Democrat on the Ethics Committee, taking over from another Californian, Zoe Lofgren.
But what makes Maryland interesting is that it is a relatively small state to have so strong a hold on power.
One senior Democratic aide speculated that proximity to Washington could be a contributing factor, as living close could make it easier for lawmakers to meet the extra time commitments required of those in leadership roles.
“All of these folks have districts that are very close to D.C.,” the aide said. “It allows them to also play a role in terms of visibility. They can go on TV more.”
In congratulating Ruppersberger for landing the Intelligence post, Hoyer lauded his state’s “deep legislative bench” and said in an e-mailed statement that he looked forward to working with his fellow Marylanders over the next two years “to continue to create jobs, restore fiscal responsibility, ensure government oversight, and keep our communities safe, not only in Maryland, but throughout our country.”
Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat who sits on the powerful Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, chalked up Maryland’s power center to a long-serving delegation. The state’s two least senior Democrats — John Sarbanes and Donna Edwards — are the ones that don’t have leadership posts. But Edwards did mount an unsuccessful bid to co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus this Congress.
“Some state have more seniority than others,” Polis said. “I’ve never actually heard about a Maryland conspiracy. What people sometimes talk about in our Caucus is California has a lot of influence and that’s natural. ... Obviously New York has a lot of seniority. So I think it’s clearly not a Maryland conspiracy.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.