With California Rep. Barbara Lee’s decision on Wednesday to drop her bid for vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, none of the party’s five top leadership positions are expected to be contested in what was scheduled to be closed-door voting on Thursday by reelected and newly elected rank-and-file members.
The only new face to emerge in the leader ranks is now anticipated to be that of Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, given that Lee’s withdrawal and endorsement of Crowley appears to leave him with no competition for the vice chair’s seat – technically the No. 5 House Democratic leadership job.
Earlier this fall, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado had been a candidate for that same post, but he had previously withdrew.
Lee’s decision was circulated in an e-mail to colleagues, stating, “I am writing to inform you that I am withdrawing my name from consideration and am asking the Caucus to unify around the candidacy of Congressman Joe Crowley.”
Barring any last-second candidacies, then, the House Democratic leadership team for the new session will again be topped by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina.
Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, the current Caucus vice chair, is set to move up to chairman, taking over from Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, who is term limited by party rules.
Crowley, who formerly was chairman of the centrist New Democratic Coalition and of the Queens Democratic Committee, will round out the group as vice chair. A sixth top spot out of the policy sphere – that of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair – will remain in the hands of Rep. Steve Israel, also of New York.
One odd-man-out appears to be current Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was reelected Nov. 6 to her congressional seat from Florida. She had been telling colleagues and other Democrats running for Congress of her interest in gaining a House leadership job, and of her desire for their support. But with Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn all deciding to stick around – there appears to be no opening in a top leadership spot, unless some new job is created.
In reality, the decision by Lee, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, appeared to be all-but-sealed with the decision two weeks ago by Pelosi to run again. That meant that with Becerra, there already would be two other Californians in the five leadership seats.
In her e-mail, Lee stressed party unity around Crowley’s candidacy and said her goal in seeking the vice chair’s position was to provide “a broader voice to our Democratic agenda.” She said she hopes the Democratic Caucus will not only continue fighting for the middle class, but also making the elimination of poverty a priority.