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Larson Keeping His Options Open

Term-Limited Caucus Chairman Unsure of Next Step

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
As he waits out his political fate, Rep. John Larson (right) has become a force behind the Democrats’ jobs message and pushes the issue at every turn.

By the end of 2012, Rep. John Larson is likely going to be out of a job — at least in leadership.

The Connecticut Democrat, who is in his second and final term as Caucus chairman, said he is unsure what his next step might be, but in an interview, he did not rule out a play for Speaker or another top post.

“John Kennedy used to say all mothers would love to see their children grow up to be president; few would like to have them go through the process to get there,” the one-time high school teacher said.

He added: “I think there’s a lot of that. From my perspective, do the job that you’re assigned to do; everything else will take care of itself.”

It’s unclear how Larson can move up the leadership ladder after next year. The seven-term lawmaker would either have to challenge one of the three leaders above him, none of whom is term-limited like he is, or wait for a retirement announcement. But few Capitol Hill observers expect Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to step down any time soon, and the rest of the leadership team appears to be holding steady while Democrats look to make gains in next year’s elections.

The Caucus chairman and vice chairman positions are term-limited. The current vice chairman, Rep. Xavier Becerra, is term-limited and likely to seek the Caucus chairmanship.

“Once you’re in leadership, particularly in a position like caucus chair, it’s tough to accept going back to being a rank-and-file Member,” a Democratic strategist said. “So Larson certainly has his eyes on moving up the ladder. But it’s a question of where does he go and who could he challenge?”

As he waits out his political fate, which could be made easier if Democrats win control of the House after next year, Larson has become a force behind the Democrats’ jobs message and pushes the issue at every turn. As one top Democratic aide quipped, Larson “is like a dog with a bone.”

He introduced President Barack Obama’s jobs plan in the House last month, and before that, he unveiled a trio of jobs-related bills for the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to consider during its negotiations. Larson also led the Democratic Caucus in an outdoor rally on the Capitol steps last month to call for a vote on Obama’s jobs plan, announcing: “The urgency is now. Rise up, America.”

“Jobs has become the rallying point for the Caucus. It’s become the rallying point, I think, for the Democrats,” Larson said during the interview in his office.

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