With New House Democratic Leadership Team, Pelosi Looks Out for Her Own
At a surprise press conference Monday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced the appointed members of a reconfigured leadership team.
The California Democrat’s top lieutenants in the 114th Congress will overwhelmingly include familiar faces in new roles, a signal that she will continue a practice of rewarding and empowering her allies as needs shift within the caucus.
A clear sign of that tradition comes with the re-appointment of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., as co-chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
At one point, Steering and Policy leadership positions were supposed to come with term limits, but DeLauro has kept her seat at the table for years past her would-be expiration date. Pelosi described DeLauro, a close friend, as a “lioness” and “an institution” who will stay at Steering and Policy “by popular demand.” With DeLauro’s longtime co-chairman George Miller, D-Calif., retiring this year, Pelosi has given his job to Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md. She was most recently the leader of the House Democratic women’s working group, where she touted priorities close to Pelosi’s heart.
Edwards also was at one point considered a front-runner for chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Pelosi announced Monday that Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., would be the chairman of the DCCC for the next cycle — and one of the few truly new faces in House Democratic leadership in the next Congress.
Pelosi’s real power play on Monday was in creating an entirely new position for outgoing DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who up until Monday afternoon was a man without a home in leadership. In the new House Democratic power structure, he will serve under the title “chairman of policy and communications.”
“Congressman Israel will be an invaluable asset to our caucus, working closely with the Steering and Policy Committee to develop our caucus message, jump start the middle class and reignite the American dream,” said Pelosi, who four years ago made sure that Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., newly finished with his tour of duty leading the DCCC, got to be a de facto member of leadership as ranking member on Budget.
Earlier on Monday — before Luján’s appointment and Pelosi’s press conference — Israel sent fellow House Democrats a memo outlining the gains and shortfalls of the 2014 election cycle that read as a defense of his own leadership at the DCCC. Members are privately, and not-so-privately, grumbling about what went wrong on Election Day so that House Republicans now have the largest majority in almost a century.
Meanwhile, in elevating Luján to lead the DCCC, Pelosi cleared the way for another California Democrat — who, incidentally, is also a favorite of the minority leader — to move up into a leadership post.
Luján was poised to be the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the 114th Congress, but told CQ Roll Call on Monday that he would no longer be running for the position. Next in line is Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., whom Pelosi has previously tapped to be the ranking member of the Ethics Committee and one of the five Democrats on the special Benghazi investigative panel.
An aide close to Sanchez said that she was exploring her options, while Luján said he would endorse her for the position.
Hispanic Caucus elections are on Tuesday, as are elections for minority leader, minority whip, assistant leader and caucus chairman and vice-chairman.
Abby Livingston contributed to this report.
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