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Pelosi's Top Allies Poised to Keep Control of Steering

House Democrats voted last week to give the Caucus more influence over the leadership of the Steering and Policy Committee, but that may not end up changing much.

So far, the only people who have announced plans to head up the committee are its two existing co-chairmen, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and George Miller (Calif.), two of outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s closest allies. Miller and DeLauro have led the steering panel since 2003, shortly after Pelosi became Minority Leader. The steering panel determines committee assignments for the Caucus, and helps set the Democrats’ policy agenda.

DeLauro and Miller’s offices each confirmed Tuesday that the lawmakers were running to retain their posts in the next Congress. No one else has declared an intention to run.

Late last week, the Caucus adopted a rules change to make the co-chairmen jobs elected positions, with Steering members voting on which Members will lead the group. The chairmen had previously been appointed by the Speaker or Minority Leader.

Pelosi proposed the change as an alternative to a more drastic proposal by a group of moderates who wanted the full Caucus to elect the Steering and Policy co-chairmen.

The California Democrat has appointed DeLauro and Miller to the steering leadership posts for nearly eight years, despite a Caucus rule stating that “no member shall be appointed or elected to more than two consecutive full terms.”

Before Steering can select its co-chairmen for the 112th Congress, the full Caucus must address the overall membership of the panel House leaders. Pelosi’s designees and top Democrats on powerful committees make up a substantial portion of the current membership. But under Caucus rules, each of 12 “compact and contiguous regions” will also select one lawmaker to represent them on the committee.

Democrats could meet early next week to approve and potentially rebalance the regional makeup of the committee to reflect the Nov. 2 midterms, said Daniel Weiss, Miller’s chief of staff. Caucus rules mandate that each region include “approximately one-twelfth of the Members of the Caucus.”

Pelosi sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to her rank-and-file Monday recommending that the current regional designations remain the same.

In the letter, obtained by Roll Call, Pelosi outlined the number of expected returning Members in each of the 12 regions and announced that each region likely would meet at 10 a.m. Nov. 30 to select a representative for the Steering committee.

Leaving Caucus meeting where the rules change was adopted Thursday, DeLauro down played the idea that the moderates’ push for fresh faces on the influential panel was a rebuke of her leadership.

“I’m a believer in the process and the democracy,” she said. “We had a vote, and that’s what it is, and I leave and breathe with it. It’s fine.”

At that time, DeLauro declined to say whether she would run again for chairman, saying she would “take a look at what the situation is” when she returned from the Thanksgiving break.

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