Hoyer has cultivated liberal allies who would insulate him from opposition if the leader position were to open up.
In response, Hoyer invited Ellison to dine at the nearby Monocle restaurant. “Whenever I want to talk to Steny, he’s available. Whenever I want to express views, he’s open,” Ellison said.
Hoyer’s voting record lies near the middle of the Democratic caucus ideologically. It is to the right of Pelosi’s and the other members of the Democratic leadership team.
The Maryland Democrat is a deficit hawk and has pushed for a grand bargain that would be similar to the Bowles-Simpson plan that came out of the president’s 2010 deficit commission. Hoyer also is generally pro-free trade.
Plus, he is more muscular on national defense than many progressives. He voted to authorize the Iraq War. Pelosi didn’t, and Hoyer’s policies on the war drew fire from the late Rep. John Murtha in his ill-fated challenge to Hoyer in 2006.
Hoyer is leadership’s emissary to the Blue Dog Coalition, which, though their ranks are now diminished, were important to the passage of the health care overhaul. Hoyer also maintains good working relationships with key Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.
Hoyer does attract a fair amount of criticism from the left. Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, unloaded on Hoyer in an interview. “Hoyer is a corporate Democrat. He is incestuously in bed with lobbyists, loves holding events with lobbyists, and loves to cave in a way that helps corporate lobbyists instead of actually fighting for progressive principles,” Green said.
“There was a real sense of dread among progressive members of the Democratic caucus that an opportunity might be squandered by having the wrong leadership at the top,” he added.
Ellison, who called Green a friend, offered a different perspective. “Sometimes people who have a strong ideological perspective expect a degree of purity, if you will, and that’s not something that’s possible to do if you’re trying to lead a caucus as diverse as the Democratic caucus,” he said.
Schakowsky said her effort wasn’t motivated by her opposition to Hoyer but because she thought the Democratic caucus needed “stability” with the upcoming fiscal cliff debates.
The Illinois Democrat is also “extremely devoted” to Pelosi, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., a liberal Hoyer fan, said. “It would be wrenching for many people to see her go no matter who is coming after her. If Barack Obama tried to run against Nancy Pelosi for leader of the House Democrats, Pelosi would win,” Welch said.
Despite their sometime rivalry, Hoyer and Pelosi work well as a team, outgoing Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson said. “He’s worked with her extraordinarily well. And they’ve had one another’s backs,” the Connecticut lawmaker said.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.