House Democratic leaders are on the cusp of a deal to resolve the short-lived, but intense, leadership fight between Reps. Steny Hoyer (MD) and Jim Clyburn (SC).
The two camps have gone silent all day, as they negotiate a resolution that satisfies the full leadership team. An announcement could come at any moment, and it come as a great relief to supporters of both men, who really see no reason for either to be removed from the table.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) came out quickly for Hoyer on Friday, and the Hoyer camp cited him early on as one of the progressives who’d thrown his support to the majority leader. But in an interview with TPMDC this afternoon, he said that it’s important that both men stay in leadership, and he’s pressing the leadership to reach an agreement.
“We need Hoyer and we need Clyburn,” Welch told me. Democrats lost 27 seats by less than two percent of the vote, and a diverse leadership team could help them win back the majority quickly.
“We need Mr. Hoyer because he has immense credibility in swing districts, and we need Mr. Clyburn because he has immense credibility in minority districts,” Welch said. “They’re both absolutely essential.”
“My hope is that leadership works this out,” Welch added. “It’s in the interest of the caucus to have these two powerful leaders.”
Transitioning into the minority touches a game of musical chairs for the losing party, as they hand off the Speakership and, therefore, one of their five leadership slots. If Hoyer and Clyburn both survive this fight, that could leave conference chair John Larson to twist in the wind. Welch thinks that too can be avoided.
“My hope is that they work it out, even if it requires making a new leadership position — whatever it takes,” Welch said. “Larson is also very popular…. Maybe you make four into 5.”
Welch insisted that the midterm elections were not a referendum on this leadership team: “people wanted to send a message, more to Obama than anyone else… we have a problem that was not of their making,” he said. For that reason he’s hoping to see an orderly transition, with the Speaker taking the lead, to make sure everything works out smoothly. “I spoke to Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Clyburn and i made it very clear that in this race I’m supporting Mr. Hoyer, but I don’t think this is a race that we should have. My hope is the Speaker will play a very active role in working it out.”
“Sometimes in leadership battles it’s a fight about the soul of the party,” Welch added. “That’s not what we have here.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.