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Van Hollen Looks Ahead to Budget Position

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Chris Van Hollen saw highs and, recently, lows as the leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He says he has no regrets and is ready to move on.

He said he takes solace in the fact that Members and candidates recognize that the campaign committee did “absolutely everything it could do from a campaign perspective to support them.”

“Because of some of the hard decisions we had to make at the DCCC, we were able to save a lot of our Members who otherwise would have gotten knocked out as part of that tsunami,” he said. His memo said that without the tough decisions made by the DCCC, they would have lost another 15 to 20 Members.

Despite the electoral losses, Van Hollen said he had no regrets for taking on the DCCC position for a second cycle. He declined to discuss his political aspirations, which may include a run for Senate.

Pelosi named Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.) on Friday to succeed Van Hollen at the helm of the DCCC.

Van Hollen said his successor has “new opportunities” to bring the Democrats back to the majority.

For now, Van Hollen said he will use his experience at the helm of the DCCC to help unite fractured House Democrats.

“After an election like this, there is going to have to be an important process of coming together,” Van Hollen said. “There [are] obviously lots of different views of how we need to move forward. I do think the caucus will come together and unite, and I hope to play a role in doing that.”

Van Hollen said he knows better than anybody from his time at the DCCC the challenges Blue Dogs faced, and he plans to work with them in his new role. “They are a very valued part of our Caucus, and their focus on fiscal discipline is an essential element of not just our message but what we have to do moving forward.”

Van Hollen also defended Pelosi, arguing that the ads against her had more bite because of the unemployment rate. And he said she understands the need to bring the Caucus together.

“I think the Speaker, soon to be the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi ... very much recognizes that it’s going to be important to open the Caucus to give everyone an opportunity to participate. I think you’ll see a very real effort to reach out to every member of the Caucus.”

Van Hollen said that the Democrats will remain the big-tent party.

“I think the challenge is going to be really more so on the other side,” he predicted. “I think John Boehner could find himself with a runaway horse.”

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