Democrats Drop Plan To Add 2nd Vice Chair

Posted January 10, 2003 at 2:14pm

House Democrats have abandoned earlier plans to add an additional slot on the leadership rung, deciding that they are diverse enough and don’t need two Caucus vice chairmen.

Several Members said this week the issue has all but fallen off the Democrats’ radar. Members said the issue isn’t dead for good — just for now.

“When the discussion took place, I sent a letter to [the Organization Study and Review Committee] supporting the proposition,” said Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.). “I think the Caucus is satisfied with the results of the elections. There hasn’t been any clamoring.”

Rep. Benjamin Cardin (Md.), head of the Democrats’ OSR Committee, said the topic is off the agenda for the committee’s expected late-January meeting. With Members no longer pushing for it as an item of consideration, the OSR decided against taking it up, he said.

Cardin said the decision was “a result of the leadership election results and of the changes made by the new leader. I think the thought was that we didn’t need to create a new position.” Had the post been added, it would be the Democrats’ first elected leadership addition since 1998.

As a result of the November leadership elections, the Democratic leadership includes Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), a woman; Menendez, a Hispanic; and Caucus Vice Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.), who is black. Democratic leadership in the 107th Congress also included a female and a Hispanic at the top, but no representation from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Clyburn first proposed adding another leadership spot last fall. While he would still support the idea if it came to the Caucus for a vote, he agrees it no longer seems necessary.

In addition to the elected posts, Clyburn noted that Pelosi has selected Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), a moderate Southerner, as her chief assistant; Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), a woman, to head the Steering Committee; and Rep. Robert Matsui (Calif.), a Japanese-American, to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find more diversity in any group that you find in this group,” Clyburn said.

“People have told me flat out that back in the fall they were for it, but after seeing what the results have yielded, they don’t see it as pressing as it was before,” he added.

Clyburn was challenged for the vice chairman post by another CBC member, Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.).

Said Meeks: “The conference itself feels Nancy Pelosi is doing a good job diversifying the leadership positions and so that’s the reason why you don’t hear a loud call for it at this time.”

Lofgren added: “We’ve spent enough time organizing, so now it’s time to get to work. I’m satisfied with the leadership team we’ve put together.”