Sometimes a consolation prize makes all the difference, Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz learned Wednesday.
After party leaders appeared to have blocked the Minnesota Democrat from running for ranking member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Walz — who is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress — ended up getting much of what he wanted anyway.
He will be on the Veterans' Affairs Committee in the 114th Congress, and he will have a larger role with veterans service organizations. Walz served eight years on the Veterans' Affairs Committee through a waiver, and recently mounted a bid, with the urging of many outside veterans organizations, to become the committee's ranking Democrat in the 114th Congress. He wasn't the most senior Democrat on the panel — that distinction went to Corrine Brown of Florida — but he did have the second-longest tenure on the committee among Democrats.
"I made the argument on this that had I come in 2004 instead of 2006, I'd have more seniority," Walz said Wednesday. "The reason I didn't come in 2004 was that I was deployed."
Walz is technically not a permanent member of the committee — thus the waiver — and Democratic leaders on the Steering and Policy Committee argued that they therefore could not vote on his bid to be ranking member.
"Through technicalities, they simply decided to not put me on the committee, and according to rules, I was then not eligible to run for this," Walz said.
"I certainly feel a little bit abused," he said.
But party leaders moved late Wednesday to address any lingering ill will.
A spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told CQ Roll Call late Wednesday afternoon that Walz would not only be on the committee in the 114th Congress — a fact Walz himself wasn't sure would happen earlier in the day — but that he would have increased responsibilities.
“Leader Pelosi is very grateful to Congressman Walz for his leadership as highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. “Congressman Walz has accepted the Leader’s offer to serve on the Veterans’ Committee in the 114th Congress and to chair the quarterly VSO roundtables that the Leader has organized and held regularly since 2006.“
It's a token of goodwill from Pelosi after a very messy process.
Walz never got a vote on his ranking member bid. He wasn't even allowed to make his case to the Steering Committee. Vermont Democrat Pete Welch made a motion to put him on the Veterans' Affairs committee, thus allowing him to run, but Welch withdrew the request in Wednesday's caucus meeting after talking with Walz. Without being a permanent member, the Steering Committee said they couldn't vote on Walz's bid to be ranking member, which meant Brown would take the position without any competition.
That development came after another significant one: Walz didn't even know there'd be a vote Wednesday. He told CQ Roll Call Tuesday night that he believed the vote would be "after Thanksgiving." He was informed later in the night that it was only hours away.
Pelosi's swift move to soften the appearance of leadership meddling came on the same day that Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., beat out the Pelosi-endorsed Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., to become the next ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Pelosi's moves on that race may have upset some Democrats, but she moved quick enough on the Veterans' Affairs debacle to avoid significant blowback.
Connor O'Brien and Emma Dumain contributed to this report.
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