Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Democrats Struggle to Unify

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer both face acrimony in their attempts to stay in the Democratic leadership in the next Congress.

House Democrats haven’t been able to stop campaigning.

Rather than spending the days after Tuesday’s midterms regrouping, Members have been stuck fighting over who among them should lead in the minority. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Friday she would stand as Minority Leader, angering moderates who hoped she would step aside and forcing leaders underneath her to mount bids for the remaining leadership positions.

Top among the contests is for that of Minority Whip: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) both want it, and they spent the weekend poring over Member call lists to try to shore up enough support to force the other from the race.

But until the situation is resolved, Democrats said they can’t turn the page on the election, in which Republicans picked up more than 60 seats, nor can they focus on immediate priorities like plotting a strategy for the Nov. 15 lame-duck session or for the next Congress.

The risks of a nasty leadership fight are high; some Democrats fear that if Clyburn is pushed out of leadership altogether, there will be a backlash from one of the Caucus’ most loyal voting blocs: the Congressional Black Caucus. Other Democrats worry that if Hoyer is squeezed out, the party’s outreach to moderates and ability to recruit candidates to run in swing districts will be crippled. And a Clyburn-Hoyer race highlights Pelosi’s challenge winning back the confidence of the party’s remaining centrists, some of whom said publicly last week that they won’t vote to keep her as Democratic leader in the 112th Congress.

“This is the last thing we need now,” one Democratic lobbyist said. “Pelosi created this internal strife when she decided to surprise everyone and run for leader. She can demonstrate leadership and help bring this to a quick conclusion. She should tell Hoyer and Clyburn to both go down a notch. And give a gold watch to [Conference Chairman John] Larson. And get it done in the next 24 hours.”

Clyburn signaled Sunday that a deal would get worked out so that none of the current leaders is left behind.

“We’ll get all this worked out in the coming days, and I suspect that it will be resolved in such a way that our Caucus will be very satisfied with the leadership team going forward,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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