DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Steve Israel doesn’t want another tour of duty as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“Let me think about it,” the New York Democrat told CQ Roll Call in a recent interview, feigning indecision for just an instant before delivering the punch line. “No! No. No. No.”
He exhaled with a long, loud laugh, and then grew serious.
“I very much want to continue being in leadership,” he said. “But three terms is a bad idea for our caucus. You need fresh blood.”
Israel has registered these sentiments with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., but conversations have pretty much ended there for the time being. After all, Israel said, he has a majority to try and win back in November before he can stop and think about what might come next for him.
But once the dust settles from Election Day, Israel will be left at a career crossroads. He wants a seat at a leadership table without an empty chair: The “Big Five” slate of caucus chairman, vice chairman, whip, leader and assistant leader is likely to remain static in the 114th Congress.
Pelosi could use her influence to keep Israel relevant through the next few years by securing him a special position, but sources tell CQ Roll Call she could face backlash from members growing uneasy about her pattern of playing favorites.
Ultimately, it might be Israel’s choice: taking on another grueling two years of activity at the DCCC through what might be a better cycle in a presidential election year, or return to being a member of the rank and file.
While he insists he isn’t kept awake at night obsessing over the if-then’s, he must know that his short-term political future is drawing a blank — and that he could become a cautionary tale for what happens to ambitious members of the House Democratic Caucus who suddenly find themselves with little room to grow.