Pressure is building among House Democrats for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to step in to try to resolve the fight for Minority Whip between Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Whip James Clyburn (S.C.).
Democrats said they fear that if the race between Hoyer and Clyburn continues much longer, it will be difficult for the Caucus to unify and move forward after last week’s devastating midterm losses. Hoyer and Clyburn spent the week calling Members to shore up support for Minority Whip, which would be the No. 2 job in the minority leadership.
“I’m concerned the Caucus is going to be split,” Rep. Albio Sires said Monday. The New Jersey Democrat is backing Hoyer, and last week called on Pelosi to step aside as the Democratic leader. Pelosi announced Friday she would run for Minority Leader in the next Congress, a decision that forced a race between Hoyer and Clyburn for the next job in leadership.
“For a Caucus that has basically been decimated, we now have more issues to deal with other than trying to regroup and deal with what happened,” Sires said of the leadership scrum. “To me, that’s not logical, but maybe Washington is just not logical.”
“I’ve talked to a lot of Members, and a lot of Members, even though they are not speaking out, are upset,” he said.
Members are upset at the prospect of having to make a difficult decision choosing between Hoyer and Clyburn, Sires said. He added that Pelosi should try to find a way to create a new position to satisfy one or the other.
“It’s unfortunate this is happening,” added Rep. Jim Matheson, a prominent Blue Dog Democrat and Hoyer supporter who also previously called on Pelosi to step aside as leader. “It’s not what we need to be doing right now — is beating each other up as Democrats.”
The Utah Democrat said Pelosi’s decision to stay “makes it difficult in terms of everyone having a place to land” and that she should step in to help bring the showdown between Hoyer and Clyburn to an end.
“Anytime you have a battle within the family it is not helpful, so if steps can be taken to diminish that battle — to stop it — I think that would be the right thing,” Matheson said.
One rank-and-file Member was even harsher about Pelosi’s handling of the post-election fallout, and said the idea that Hoyer might get pushed out of leadership would be a “nightmare” that would permanently alienate the moderates who remain.
“People are wondering why she’s running again,” the lawmaker said. “It’s like Freddy Krueger — she’s back! Her popularity varies across most of the country, but in the heartland she’s about as popular as the devil, and that makes it tough.”
The Member said Pelosi should ask Clyburn to move back to Caucus chairman, a position the lawmaker argued was better suited to Clyburn’s personality. “Clyburn’s a great guy, but he’s never been a Whip. He’s too nice to be a Whip. And everybody takes a demotion except him? Guess what, we lost.”