Edwards continues her climb up the Democratic Party leadership ladder. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
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.” Full story
Pastor, left, seen here in 2008 with then-Rep. Ben Chandler, is a member of the Obscure Caucus because he’s always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
At least two lawmakers are disappearing from the CQ Roll Call Obscure Caucus after the 113th Congress wraps at the end of this year — and you may not have noticed them at all.
Both are men who have mostly dodged the spotlight, assuming a low-key approach to their terms in federal office that favors building their reputations at work with their colleagues, little or no tweeting and distance from cable-news pundits.
As our team noted when last publishing this list, inclusion in the caucus isn’t meant as mockery or criticism. Members tend to climb the ranks while putting their heads down and focusing on parochial concerns or constituent services. Just because they’re not inclined to grab C-SPAN cameras and wink to fans back home after wins on the House floor like an overzealous soccer star doesn’t mean they haven’t made an impact.
To be considered, lawmakers must have served at least two full terms and have kept the self-promotion to a minimum. Senators aren’t included.
These are the Obscure Caucus veterans who are retiring.
Eshoo and Pallone are locked in a race for the Energy and Commerce ranking member slot. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 11:50 a.m. | It started as a race to choose the next ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; it could ultimately end as a referendum on the status quo.
When House Democrats finally settle the score this week, their choice between Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California could send a strong message about how deeply members still hew to the seniority system.
And in a caucus growing increasingly antsy over the stasis at the leadership table, this ranking member election could be the closest thing to an up-or-down vote on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that members get for the next two years.
Pelosi, who has repeatedly endorsed her close friend Eshoo, is expected to run unopposed for a sixth full term as the House’s top Democrat.
Lawmakers will not say so publicly, but many of them think that if Eshoo loses, it will be because she became a casualty of greater frustrations within the caucus.
The fight sparked by California Democrat Henry A. Waxman’s retirement announcement in January became so dramatic because there was never a clear front-runner or an easy choice. Stakeholders agree Pallone and Eshoo’s policy positions are nearly identical, and their legislative records are unblemished.
So members were forced to consider other factors: Who called them first to ask for their vote? Who gave them money in a tough re-election bid? Who has always been their friend? Full story
In her first public remarks since Election Day last week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her decision to run to keep her post atop the House Democratic Caucus, and doesn’t sound likely to relinquish it anytime soon.
“I don’t understand why this question should even come up,” the California Democrat said at a press conference Thursday. “I’m here as long as the members want me to be here.
Pelosi suggested that she wasn’t, as many expect, looking to serve one more term as minority leader before retiring in 2016 — when, colleagues hope, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be elected president.
“I’m not here on a schedule,” Pelosi said, “except for a mission to get a job done.”
She also hinted that there was implicit sexism in the constant rhetoric of “will she or won’t she.”
“When was the last time you asked Mitch McConnell … ‘aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch?’” said Pelosi of the Republican senator from Kentucky. Full story
Pelosi and her leadership team face questions about their handling of the midterms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 3:34 p.m. | House Democrats came back to work Wednesday still reeling from last week’s bruising election results — and looking for answers about what went wrong.
For many lawmakers, it wasn’t enough to blame the loss of at least a dozen House seats on an unpopular president, gerrymandered districts and a host of other factors beyond the party’s control. Going forward, they say they want their leadership to do some soul-searching, and so far it hasn’t happened.
A few members challenged Pelosi for her suggestion that voter suppression accounted for low Democratic turnout, a source on the call said.
A handful of Democratic aides said there was general frustration that the DCCC, at the eleventh hour, had to shift precious dollars around to help incumbents who should have been safe — or should have been warned by the DCCC much earlier to get back to their districts and protect their seats.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., was telling his local newspaper the party’s messaging needed to change. Democrats wouldn’t win elections, he said, talking about Pelosi’s favored “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” agenda.
“Where the hell were the Democrats? What were we talking about?” he asked. “We’re losing white men. Why are we not talking about that? Why are we always concerned with what’s the politically correct thing to say?”
“Where’s the humility?” a senior Democratic aide lamented. “Don’t we want to self-assess here?”
Over the weekend, it looked like party leaders were starting to come around to the idea about how the elections went for Democrats on a national leavel. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida announced that a special panel of “key party stakeholders and experts” would perform a “top-to-bottom assessment” of what went wrong this cycle and how to do better next time.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., tweeted that Wasserman Schultz “is right: Dems need a thorough, honest analysis of what went wrong. … Business as usual is not the clarion call we need now.”
Even the House’s third-ranking Democrat, Assistant Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, acknowledged there should be some examination of how the messaging strategy was executed.
“A couple of weeks before the election, my travels around the country, in and out of these congressional districts, led me to the conclusion that our message, or a lack thereof, was causing a problem,” Clyburn told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “Where was the Democratic message in this campaign? People couldn’t tell you.”
A leadership aide pushed back against the thesis that House Democrats lacked a compelling narrative on the campaign trail, and that leaders are required to self-flagellate to prove they’re disappointed.
The aide told CQ Roll Call that the caucus had numerous opportunities to collaborate on a party platform ahead of the midterms, with Pelosi and Israel holding listening sessions to hone talking points and messaging strategy. The result was the “Middle Class Jumpstart” economic agenda, which House Democrats promised to implement within their first 100 days of regaining control of the chamber.
Attendance was always high at these special planning meetings, the leadership aide continued; if members now are saying they didn’t like the message or appreciate the tone, it’s not because they never had the chance to make their feelings known. Also, grousing about a lack of message, the aide said, is par for the course for Democrats every two years.
“I think we went beyond doing enough,” Rep. Jose E. Serrano of New York said Wednesday, in defense of the caucus’s strategy this election cycle.
At least one tradition, however, is missing from this year’s election aftermath: Calls for an imminent change at the leaders’ table. It’s a far cry from 2010 when Democrats lost control of the chamber and there was considerable chatter about whether it the time had come for Pelosi to step aside after 12 years in leadership.
“It does not just fall on Nancy,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona told CQ Roll Call Wednesday, adding that responsibility for what went wrong on Election Day was a “shared one” among the whole House Democratic Caucus.
So for the time being, even ambitious lawmakers clamoring to move up in the House’s party power structure are keeping their powder dry, perhaps expecting 2016 to be the year where a sea change finally takes place at the very top.
There are also fewer members in elected office willing to risk even a symbolic challenge of Pelosi, Clyburn or Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. There is now a shortage of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats willing to “take one for the team,” as ex-Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina did four years ago.
But it doesn’t mean that Democrats don’t want to see some changes. That’s especially true for the dozens of members who were elected in 2012 eager to compromise and get things done, even if it meant working with Republicans.
One member of that class, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said there needs to be a “whole different level of engagement” between members and leadership going forward, and she predicted the caucus would be confronted with the challenge of evaluating the status quo.
“I am ready to talk and have an action plan ready on Wednesday,” Lujan Grisham told CQ Roll Call on Nov. 8, adding that she wanted to see the 2016 cycle built around talking points that focused more on positive ideas and less on partisan finger-pointing.
In a separate interview on Tuesday, first-term Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle, said members were undeniably getting antsy with business-as-usual in the senior ranks.
“I think you’re going to have some of the more senior members frustrated about when we’re going to get the House back,” said Murphy, “and you got some younger, newer members who kind of want to be set free and don’t want to be tied down as much.
“They want to talk about the things that got them elected in the first place,” he continued. “This is a new generation of leadership.”
Correction 4:26 p.m.
An earlier version of this post misstated the state that Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. represents in Congress. He represents New Jersey.
Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
On Monday afternoon, and for the third time this year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed her close friend and fellow Californian Rep. Anna G. Eshoo for ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee — and said House Democrats should consider seniority “a consideration” but “not a determination” in doling out committee leadership assignments.
It might be particularly irksome to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which sees seniority as a way to protect their own from being passed over for chairman and ranking member slots. Full story
Walz seeks leadership role on Veterans’ Affairs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Tim Walz will seek the ranking member seat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, setting up a potentially ugly fight when House Democrats are still reeling from Election Day losses.
At first blush, Walz is an ideal candidate. The Minnesota Democrat is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. Though he’s technically the least senior member on the committee — he gets a waiver to sit at the bottom of the roster so he can continue serving on two other panels — he’s actually the third longest-serving member there. He’s more moderate than others in his party and veterans’ services organizations think he can work well across the aisle if need be, a Democratic aide said.
A source familiar with Walz’s thinking told CQ Roll Call he has informed leadership of his intention to run and, if elected by his peers, would gladly give up one of his current committee assignments — most likely Transportation and Infrastructure.
But Walz’s real obstacle is that he’s going up against Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., who is the next in line for the job with current ranking member Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, retiring at the end of the year. Full story
Pelosi, who is running to keep her job, is telling her shrinking caucus she can keep showing them the money. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 9:39 p.m. | In a private call with her restive — and shrinking — flock — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed to her fundraising prowess as a reason to keep her post — while some of her top allies blamed President Barack Obama for the party’s woes.
Pelosi hopes to continue leading the caucus although many members are privately discussing when there will be a change in senior leadership ranks.
“I know where the money is,” the California Democrat said, according to sources on the call. “I know where to get it.”
As the party looks ahead to the 2016 presidential election cycle, perhaps Pelosi’s best argument in her favor despite Republicans taking the biggest majority in decades is her fundraising ability. In the last 12 years, she has raised more than $400 million, a staggering sum that no other lawmaker can begin to match. Full story
Despite midterm losses of at least 13 House seats, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to face any serious calls to step down as the leader of the Democratic Caucus, party insiders tell CQ Roll Call.
Members, aides and operatives say Pelosi and all of her lieutenants are expected to be unopposed in their bids to retain leadership posts.
The suspense is over: In the quickest announcement in three cycles regarding her political future, Nancy Pelosi is asking to be re-elected as leader of the House Democratic Caucus.
In a formal letter to current and future colleagues on Wednesday afternoon, Pelosi said that despite huge electoral losses that gave Republicans their largest House majority in nearly a century, she wanted to continue leading the caucus to effect change on values all Democrats share.
The California Democrat in particular highlighted amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as among her biggest priorities for the next two years.
“Only by changing our political environment and broadening the universe of the electorate can we build a strong sense of community and an economy that works for everyone,” she wrote in her letter, obtained by CQ Roll Call. “This basic and even non-partisan challenge, which many of you told me you share, have convinced me to place my name in nomination for Leader when our Caucus meets.” Full story
Grijalva is eyeing another bid to be ranking member of Natural Resources. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
After falling short last year, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva will try to win the ranking member slot of the Natural Resources Committee for a second time, the Arizona Democrat’s office confirmed to CQ Roll Call.
He’ll likely be facing off against a more senior member of the committee, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, D-Calif., whose spokesman said she is “considering all options and hasn’t ruled anything out.”
McLeod is leaving Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
LOS ANGELES — Washington’s lousy with politicians who decry the city’s endless cycle of partisan sniping, gridlock and dysfunction. Still, every election, there they are, fighting for one more term — unwilling to leave the nation’s capital even when they lose.
But that’s not Gloria Negrete McLeod.
One term in Congress was enough, thank you, for the California Democrat who is convinced that she can do more good as part of the five-member San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors than she can as one of 435 votes in the U.S. House.
The 73-year-old congresswoman, elected in 2012, is retiring after just one term — in part because she doesn’t like the long cross-country commute to Washington and in part because she feels Congress is at a standstill.
“I would have stayed in Congress until they carried me out,” McLeod told CQ Roll Call. “But it’s a place where nothing gets done.” Full story
Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2011. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The reported description of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickenshit” by a senior administration official has set off a rhetorical exchange between Speaker John A. Boehner and the White House.
That unnamed official was quoted by The Atlantic as having said, “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit.”
“I am tired of the administration’s apology tour. The president sets the tone for his administration. He either condones the profanity and disrespect used by the most senior members of his administration, or he does not,” Boehner said in a statement Wednesday. “It is time for him to get his house in order and tell the people that can’t muster professionalism that it is time to move on.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Boehner has had previous “salty” word choices of his own.
“It’s an interesting observation by the speaker of the House who, you all know, has a penchant for using some pretty salty language himself. So, it’s a little rich to have a lecture about profanity from the speaker of the House,” Earnest said, referring to reported comments Boehner made about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., during the fiscal cliff battle.