ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, officially announced this evening that he is running for minority whip in the Democratic leadership elections next week, creating an uncomfortable showdown between House’s second and third-ranking Democratic leaders for the party’s second-ranking post in the minority in the next session of Congress.
“Over the past several days, I have talked to most of my Democratic colleagues in the House. I have received support from across the breadth of our Caucus to remain in the second ranking position of our Democratic leadership team. In order to defend and build on our Democratic accomplishments, unify our Caucus, and immediately begin the hard work of winning back the majority, I will be running for Democratic Whip,” Hoyer announced Monday evening.
Hoyer, the second-ranking leader in the Democratic majority, is running against the current third-ranking House Democrat, Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina.
As a result of losing the House majority in the congressional midterm elections last week, Democrats also lost a leadership position. Conventional wisdom among Democratic aides suggested that in the minority each Democrat would simply slide down one slot below their current posts. But after Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed last Friday that she is running for House minority leader, Clyburn surprised some in the Democratic caucus by quickly announcing that he was running for minority whip – a move that would essentially jump Hoyer in the House Democratic leadership ranks.
Hoyer and Clyburn each worked throughout the weekend to drum up support for the post, while it is believed that the Speaker is quietly working behind the scenes to broker a deal to keep both members in the leadership. An aide from the Speaker’s office told ABC News that Speaker Pelosi is unlikely to formally endorse either member because "she's focused on her race" for minority leader.
So far, it appears that neither Hoyer nor Clyburn is backing down from the fight.
On “Face the Nation” Sunday, Clyburn said he wanted to keep his position as whip, regardless of how high it ranked in the Democratic caucus.
“I am currently the Democratic whip. And what I announced was that I was going to be running for that position again…When you're in the minority, the top two positions are leader and whip. And we'll see how that works out,” Clyburn said. “As I talk to the members of our caucus, they are very satisfied with the way that I have been conducting myself as whip. When I talk to those people, our constituents out there, they say to me that I was a very effective spokesperson for our party and for the policies we laid out. And I want to continue in that position. We'll get all this worked out in the coming days. And I suspect that it will be resolved in such a way that our caucus will be very satisfied with the leadership team going forward.”
While announcing he would run for minority whip Monday evening, Hoyer ticked off a number of issues he believes Democrats should focus on while they are in the minority next Congress.
“Together, Democrats must work to create jobs and rebuild American manufacturing, preserve our fiscal future, and hold Republicans accountable for any policies that favor the special interests over middle-class Americans,” Hoyer said in a statement Monday evening. “As Democratic Whip, I will work with and listen to all of our Caucus’s Members in our shared effort to achieve those goals.”
Hoyer’s support includes the Maryland Democrats and stretches across the Democratic caucus from Blue Dogs to Progressives, while Clyburn’s base of support is considered strongest in the Congressional Black Caucus and in the South Carolina Democratic delegation.
An aide close to Hoyer confidently insists the majority leader “has the votes” to defeat Clyburn.
In a letter sent to fellow Democratic members Monday evening, Hoyer spells out his case for minority whip, pointing to some of his contributions as majority leader in the current Congress.
“As Democratic Whip, I will hit the ground running, delivering our message across the country, speaking out on the House Floor against efforts to undermine the health and security of the middle class, building support for our party among all Americans, and fighting the special interest money that overwhelmed many of our colleagues,” Hoyer wrote. “I have been proud to contribute to the historic work of the 111th Congress: I’ve been a leader who has listened, and who has built unity around the Democratic priorities we share. And I believe that those qualities will be just as needed in the next Congress, as we respond to the frustration so many Americans rightly feel over economic recovery and our fiscal future.”
Last Friday, Clyburn similarly laid out his strengths in a letter to House Democrats that explained his decision to run for minority whip.
“Throughout the course of my tenure [as majority whip], I have demonstrated the ability and willingness to give selfless service to our Caucus. My record of leadership in our Caucus has prepared me well for the challenges ahead. I am confident we can rebuild the coalition that carried Democrats and President Obama into office in 2008 and that it will lead us on the road back to the majority in 2012,” Clyburn wrote. “As the minority party in the House, we no longer set the agenda, but we must offer common sense alternatives and work with the President and the Senate Democratic majority to build upon the foundation we’ve already laid. The road back to the majority will require a laser-like focus, a consistent and coherent message, and hard work at the grassroots level. I know this path can be successful because it is a road we have traveled before.”
House Democrats will most likely hold their leadership elections next Wednesday, Nov. 17 th, during new member orientation week and as lawmakers return to Washington to begin a lame duck session of Congress.