House Democrats have reached a deal to avoid a divisive leadership battle for the party’s No. 2 position in the 112th Congress.
Current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) have been seeking support in a race to be the Minority Whip next Congress, when Democrats will be in the minority.
But late Friday night Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose bid to be Minority Leader touched off the leadership race, released a statement saying she would nominate Clyburn for an unspecified No. 3 leadership position. That position appears to be below Hoyer as Whip but ahead of Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.), who is expected to retain his post. Democratic sources confirmed a deal had been reached and said Clyburn’s new title and portfolio are still to be determined.
“Should I receive the honor of serving as House Democratic Leader, I will nominate Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina to the number three leadership position,” Pelosi said in the statement. “With the support of the members of the Democratic Caucus, I look forward to working with Jim and the other members of our Leadership team to create jobs and prosperity for the American people.”
A source close to Clyburn said he has signed onto the deal, which will avoid kicking out any Members of leadership, including Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who could have lost his post if all of the leaders had simply stepped down a notch.
“Clyburn throughout this process has wanted to be sure that the leadership reflected the diversity of the Caucus, and a number of Members were withholding their support because they didn’t want the contest to come to a vote, and this solution addresses both concerns,” the source said. “It’s clear a majority of the Caucus wants to see Clyburn remain No. 3.”
Democrats will hold their leadership elections on Wednesday. With the deal in place, Pelosi is expected to be the next Minority Leader, Hoyer the next Minority Whip and Clyburn will retain a seat at the leadership table.
Pelosi’s move to avert a contested race for Whip also comes amid public calls for her to step down from leadership as Democrats are still reeling from the midterm drubbing at the polls. By finding a way to appease both Hoyer and Clyburn, she may have helped solidify her own position. Rank-and-file supporters of both Hoyer and Clyburn had been exploring the possibility of joining forces to force her out.
An aide to one House Democrat described the deal early Saturday as “an utterly sensible compromise that ensures that Democrats retain two very valuable leaders.”
This is hardly the first time party leaders have created a new position. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) created a leadership position for Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) in 2008 after he served two terms as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And in the wake of this month’s elections, soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner announced he was adding a position to the House GOP leadership lineup for a freshman Member.