Hoyer Allies Spurn Pelosi’s Decision to Run

Posted November 5, 2010 at 7:00pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to run for Minority Leader and the circumstances surrounding the California Democrat’s announcement have prompted a backlash from some allies of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

The two-term Speaker is expected to have a lock on the position, and statements of support began flooding in following her announcement. But lobbyists and strategists with close ties to moderate Democrats argue that Hoyer is better-suited than the more liberal Pelosi to lead House Democrats following Tuesday’s majority-losing electoral defeats, and there is a fear that Hoyer could be edged out of leadership completely in the 112th Congress, either by circumstance or by design.

One Democratic lobbyist described Pelosi’s move as “arrogant” and “the most ridiculous thing in the world.”

“You have to, at some point, look at yourself and realize that you just failed,” the lobbyist said.

Many on K Street were also hoping for new leadership at the top of the ticket. “We’d much rather have Hoyer — he understands employers and employees,” one lobbyist said.

Pelosi — who has had a strained relationship with Hoyer since the two battled for Minority Whip in 2001 — did give Hoyer a heads-up before she announced her decision. But Hoyer’s allies are suspicious that she is maneuvering to edge him out of leadership.

Pelosi’s announcement was followed in quick succession by the release of letters from Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) declaring their candidacies for their equivalent posts in the minority. Because there is one less leadership slot in the minority, Hoyer would be squeezed out.

“It looks very coordinated,” a Democratic strategist said.

“It’s clear that she has been maneuvering to cut Hoyer out of the leadership,” a Democratic lobbyist with ties to moderates said. The lobbyist said Pelosi’s actions show “a complete lack of integrity on her part to the loyalty that Steny Hoyer has shown to her.”

But a top House Democratic aide said “there was no maneuvering at all” to box out Hoyer. “She respects him a lot and likes him,” the aide said.

Meanwhile, a senior Democratic aide said “everyone should have bumped down a slot” following Pelosi’s announcement, rather than digging in their heels.

The aide said Hoyer has broad support from across the spectrum of the Caucus, adding, “If the Caucus is going to be unified in the next Congress, Hoyer needs to be in leadership.” The Maryland Democrat is now exploring the possibility of running for Minority Whip.

Moderate Democrats suffered heavy losses Tuesday, and some think Pelosi is at least partially to blame. Roughly two dozen members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition lost their seats in an election in which Republicans worked hard to vilify Pelosi and tie her to Democratic candidates.

“So much for coming together in a united Caucus to fight the Republicans and take the House back,” said one Democratic lobbyist with ties to the Blue Dogs. “Civil war has just been declared.”

The Democratic lobbyist with ties to moderates equated Pelosi’s move to a declaration of war on moderate Democrats, adding it is as if Pelosi is “saying, ‘To hell with you. I don’t care why you lost.’”

“At a time when we should be trying to figure out how to work together to go forward, she is instigating a situation that will just tear the Caucus apart and leadership fights at the worst possible time,” the lobbyist said.

But Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who worked with Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) to gauge Pelosi’s support in the Caucus before the Speaker announced her intentions, argues that Pelosi is a unifying force.

Pelosi “has listened to the concerns of all our diverse Democratic Members, and worked tirelessly to mold a consensus that keeps our party and our country moving forward,” DeLauro said in her endorsement.

Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) called Pelosi “a consensus-builder who listens to and respects all sides.”

The top House Democratic aide described Pelosi as the best person to hold the Caucus together and said she would work hard to reach out to moderates and Republicans. The Speaker met Friday afternoon with Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is poised to replace her as Speaker in January.

“She understands the concerns that some of the Blue Dogs had, and she’s going to listen to them and work with them,” the aide said. “If the Republicans want to work with us, we want to do that.”

Meanwhile, at least three moderate Democratic lawmakers — Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Mike Ross (Ark.) — have already said they will not support Pelosi for Minority Leader.

Moderates also worry that Democrats’ ability to recruit in conservative districts will be depressed with Pelosi at the helm. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) asserted this week that he would be better than Pelosi at recruiting candidates in swing districts and suggested he might challenge her for Minority Leader.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said he was confident Pelosi could help Democrats win back seats. He said Pelosi “has led the Democrats out of the wilderness before, and I am confident she can do it again.”

However, another lobbyist close to the moderate New Democrat Coalition predicted more losses for Democrats with Pelosi as Minority Leader.

“With her as head of the Caucus, the president likely cannot win re-elect and we probably [will] lose more seats,” said the lobbyist, who agreed that candidate recruitment could also be an issue.

Anna Palmer contributed to this report.