Rank-and-file House Democrats worried about the downsizing of committees have begun to question whether party leaders such as Reps. John Larson (Conn.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.) should step down from plum panels to make room for others.
The details of committee reapportionments for the 112th Congress began to leak out Thursday, but Democrats were expressing quiet concern about the number of lawmakers who will be cut even before they started learning the extent of the damage.
Several Democratic aides said the unrest would not stay under wraps for long after Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) and outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) release the final totals.
On the Ways and Means Committee, for example, Republicans will add 10 new members to their ranks, bringing their total to 22 members, according to a list obtained by Roll Call. They reduced the number of Democratic slots from 26 to 15, according to a GOP aide with knowledge of the cuts. Democrats have not confirmed the number.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who ranks 13th on the Ways and Means Committee, said earlier Thursday that he had heard “rumbles” about the imminent cuts. Asked whether he thought Members in elected leadership should take one for the team and step aside from committees, he said, “Yeah, no doubt about it.”
In the past, party leaders have given up seats to curry favor with the Caucus, including Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who voluntarily gave up his seat on Appropriations in the 106th Congress to make room for another Member. Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who will remain in leadership positions next year, will not serve on committees.
But Caucus Chairman Larson and Caucus Vice Chairman Becerra intend to keep their positions on Ways and Means.
“I’m proud to be elected by my peers to serve as Caucus Chairman,” Larson said in a statement. “I understand the concern of the members. However, Ways and Means is the only Committee I will sit on and it is of vital importance to my district.”
Becerra also announced his intention to stay on the committee in a statement. “Like any member, I do my best to serve the interests of my constituents and my country in the opportunities afforded to me,” he said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to advance the Democratic agenda in the 112th Congress.”
The issues have not come up in Democratic leadership meetings, according to sources familiar with the matter.
One Democratic aide said Members have not come to terms with the facts of life that come with being the party out of power.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.