House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stepped gingerly into an increasingly contentious race for the No. 2 Democratic position between Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., saying today for the first time she wants both at her leadership table.
“In the course of the preparation for the lame-duck session, the speaker has had conversations with Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Clyburn and other members of the leadership and she wants them both in leadership,” said Pelosi’s spokesman, Brendan Daly.
Daly would not say if Pelosi wants Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, the Democratic Caucus chairman, in leadership. It’s hardly an idle question. Democrats on and off Capitol Hill, unnerved by the publicly acrimonious tiff between Hoyer and Clyburn, believe Pelosi is seeking a face-saving maneuver where Hoyer takes the No. 2 slot as whip and Clyburn becomes the No. 3 leader as Caucus chairman.
That could leave Larson out of a job and out of leadership luck. Larson has yet to see a groundswell of support for him to stay.
Settling the Hoyer-Clyburn competition would allow Pelosi to regain some degree of control over the Caucus while mollifying centrist Democrats who back Hoyer and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who support Clyburn. Hoyer has in recent days unfurled a list of public endorsements from Democrats and is believed to have enough votes to prevail.
Clyburn, through his aides, has said he has no interest in stepping aside and will continue his race until he is convinced, before the vote, that he can’t win or until the Caucus formally elects Hoyer next week.
Clyburn has publicly complained about Hoyer’s public display of endorsements, saying leadership elections should remain within the Caucus and privacy and propriety ought to discourage the unveiling of endorsement lists. Hoyer’s camp says the current majority leader has competed in these races plenty of times – winning some, losing others – and knows not only his depth of support but the membership’s tolerance for candidate vote counts and displays.
Privately, Hoyer loyalists say if Clyburn had as many endorsements and the permission to use them publicly, he would.