House Democrats Change Rules to Elect Leaders

Campaign, messaging arms to be chosen by full caucus

Posted December 1, 2016 at 12:16pm

By Rema Rahman and Lindsey McPherson
CQ Roll Call

The House Democratic Caucus decided Thursday that it will fully elect leaders to its campaign and communications arms as lawmakers eye taking back control of the chamber in 2018.

Democrats adopted an amendment to their internal rules that will allow the caucus to elect the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and three co-chairmen of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, positions whose members had been chosen by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, that would have been later ratified by the full caucus.

The DPCC chairmanship has been held by a single member, retiring New York Rep. Steve Israel, so the expansion to three co-chairs is also a change to caucus rules. 

The caucus did not address whether the DPCC co-chair slots would be reserved for members who have served for five terms or less, as Pelosi had mentioned in a “Dear Colleague” letter over the Thanksgiving break.

The decision about having regional vice chairmen at the DCCC was also postponed, incoming Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York said, noting, “You have to establish the regions first.”

Members also said the decision over instituting vice ranking members on committees was postponed.

The caucus did vote in favor of allowing a freshman member to sit in on regular leadership meetings in addition to a member who has served in the House for five terms or less. 

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The delay in finalizing the leadership proposals was due mostly to  incoming freshmen who had to leave the caucus meeting to attend a lottery drawing for office space, members said.

[Rep.-Elect Lou Correa Gets Lucky No. 1 in Office Lottery Draw]

Some members thought the meeting may be reconvened this week while others thought it would not resume until January, but Crowley said the timing has yet to be determined.

The timing of elections for the DCCC and DPCC leaders is also unknown, but it would likely not occur until the caucus has finished discussing the rules changes.

Pelosi had nominated current DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico to stay in the post, despite stunning Election Day results that saw Republicans regain the White House and lose fewer House seats than had been projected.

Pelosi also nominated three members to co-chair the DPCC: Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania.

Luján described the changes the caucus adopted Thursday as positive, saying, “It’s a good decision to empower the caucus to have them elect their leaders.”

Lujan ignored a question about whether he would run to keep his post, but a DCCC spokesman later confirmed he is running.

Pelosi told colleagues in a letter sent Wednesday night that she supported those positions being fully elected.

Her move came in response to pressure mounted by rank-and-file members who felt stifled by the lack of leadership opportunities in the House.

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who openly supported Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan in his unsuccessful bid to knock Pelosi from her leadership post, also welcomed the new rules.

“These changes today would not have happened if we had not made that push,” Moulton said, referring to the support behind Ryan’s leadership bid. 

Ryan said the changes the caucus adopted Thursday are “moving in the right direction.” He and his supporters had been particularly pushing for the DCCC chair to be an elected post, but he said he didn’t know whether there would be a challenge to Luján.

“That’s why we want to give it some time, come up with some ideas,” Ryan said. “This would be critical. For example, we have 180,000 millennials on average in these congressional districts. Right now there’s not a real strategy to talk to them. We think buying TV ads is good. They don’t watch TV. Somebody needs to come up with ideas like that on the strategy tactics moving forward.”

Asked if he would consider running for DCCC chair, Ryan said, “I don’t think so. I haven’t really given it much thought.”