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Majority Leader Steny Hoyer hasn’t spoken much about Caucus politics in the days since Democrats lost the House majority on Nov. 2. After all, he had a lot at stake: His position in the leadership lineup was vulnerable and some of his moderate allies were pressuring him to consider challenging Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the top Democratic leader job in the 112th Congress.
But when the Maryland Democrat finally opened up Wednesday evening, Hoyer defended Pelosi’s decision to stay on.
“I don’t think it was a mistake,” Hoyer said during an interview in his Capitol office. “I think Nancy Pelosi had a judgment to make as to whether she can continue being an effective leader of the Caucus.”
Pelosi was elected by her Caucus to the top leadership job Wednesday afternoon despite defections from 43 Members who preferred Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Hoyer — who has been behind Pelosi in the leadership pecking order ever since she beat him for Minority Whip in 2001 — was chosen by acclimation to serve as the No. 2 Democrat again in the next Congress.
“Obviously she went through an overwhelming vote today indicating that the overwhelming majority of those in the Caucus believes that she can be, and I think she can be as well,” Hoyer said. “She made a judgment she could be, talked to a lot of Members, and I think she can.”
Asked about why he did not challenge Pelosi for Minority Leader this time — even though some moderates in his Caucus said he was the better choice, Hoyer said, “I indicated before the election that I was not going to run against Speaker Pelosi, and I indicated that after the election.”
Hoyer had said before Pelosi decided to make the race that he wanted the job, but only if she didn’t.
“So when she decided to run for Leader, I indicated that I would ask the Members whether I could run for Whip, and then did,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer’s bid for Whip didn’t come easily, however. Until Friday, Hoyer had been locked in a competitive race for the job with current Majority Whip James Clyburn. Pelosi was able to broker a deal to end the contest by making Clyburn Assistant Leader, a new third-ranking leadership post.