We have a race!
When Jim Clyburn threw his name into contention to be the Democrats’ Minority Whip next Congress yesterday, it touched off a tough race between himself and the Dems’ current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The results of the midterm elections didn’t help Hoyer. Many of the members who lost were moderate and conservative Democrats who saw Hoyer as a sympathetic ally in an otherwise liberal leadership. Clyburn, has significant support among members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is more ideologically aligned with the progressive-leaning minority.
Not so fast, though.
A number of House progressives — members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, even — are circling their wagons around Hoyer, hoping to balance the leadership ticket next year.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter to Democratic members, progressive Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) made the pitch for Hoyer.
“I believe that it is in the best interests of our Caucus to keep Majority Leader Hoyer as a member of our Democratic leadership team—a team that helped Democrats pass a range of landmark legislation,” Polis wrote. “Keeping Steny Hoyer in leadership will help to unify our Caucus and ensure that House Democrats hit the ground running in the new Congress.”
Included in the letter is a list of progressive members who’ve already thrown their support to the Majority Leader: Ed Markey (MA), Peter Welch (VT), Lois Capps (D-CA), and John Garamendi (CA).
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) also supports Hoyer. Hoyer has historically had an uneasy relationship with House progressives, including Speaker Pelosi, but many of those tensions eased over the last two years, during which Hoyer proved to be an effective number two, who helped to pass a broadly progressive agenda. You can read the entire letter below.
November 6, 2010
Dear Democratic Colleague:
After discussion with fellow House Democrats, Majority Leader Hoyer has announced that he will explore a bid for Democratic Whip in the 112th Congress. I believe that it is in the best interests of our Caucus to keep Majority Leader Hoyer as a member of our Democratic leadership team—a team that helped Democrats pass a range of landmark legislation. Keeping Steny Hoyer in leadership will help to unify our Caucus and ensure that House Democrats hit the ground running in the new Congress. Below you can find Members and news sources expressing the wide range of reasons to elect Steny as our Whip.
Congressman Ed Markey (MA)
“I intend to support Steny Hoyer to be our minority whip, because I think that he and Nancy Pelosi will unify the Caucus and take us back to the majority in two years”
Congressman Peter Welch (VT)
“The Democrats need to do two things. One is have a hard-headed analysis of why we lost, and two, have a concrete plan to retake the majority. We lost in swing districts, and Steny is the primary bridge builder and has immense credibility in swing districts. We need to keep him in leadership to help us regain the majority.”
Congressman Jared Polis (CO)
“As Majority Leader, Hoyer has been a pillar of strength for members of the 111th Congress and I fully support him for Democratic Whip. He played a key role in passing health care reform and his support from a wide array of Democrats will help unite our Caucus as we tackle difficult issues such as job creation and reforming our nation’s education system.”
Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA)
“I am proud to support Steny Hoyer for Democratic Whip. Having worked closely with him for years I know he is a champion for middle class Americans and the common sense values of the Democratic Party. After helping us to gain the Majority, he was an indispensable part of the leadership team that enacted historic measures to save our economy, reform health care and our financial system, and expand educational opportunities for all Americans. Steny’s diligence and hard work has earned him the trust of all parts of our caucus and as Whip will ensure that we remain unified going forward.”
Congressman John Garamendi (CA)
“Behind every great Speaker is a great Majority Leader. Steny Hoyer has been a remarkable leader in our caucus, and that’s why I’m proud to support him for Democratic Whip.
“Job number one for all members of the next Congress is job creation. We must Make It In America to make it in America. Leader Hoyer has been Congress’s most determined and passionate voice on the need to bring back good manufacturing jobs - the backbone of America’s middle class. “
“Make It In America: that’s the vision the 112th Congress needs. That’s the vision America needs. Because of his effectiveness as a leader and his concrete vision for a prosperous America, Majority Leader Hoyer has my unwavering support for Democratic Whip.”
In the news:
“Leadership races are largely about personal relationships and Hoyer hopes he can cash his chips in. He contributed to or raised money for 218 Democratic incumbents and candidates and gave the maximum allowable contribution to 66 incumbents and challengers through his leadership PAC and Hoyer for Congress, giving more than $1.57 million, more than any other Democrat.”
“Hoyer also has strong relationships across the Caucus and easily won a fight in 2006 for Majority Leader despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) backing his challenger, the late Rep. John Murtha (Pa.)… ‘The most important thing in the 112th Congress is to have a unified Caucus, and the way to have a unified Caucus is to have Steny Hoyer in leadership,’ the aide said”
“…Hoyer has worked to build ties to progressives, and he spent more time on the campaign trail — and handed out more money to his colleagues…”
“‘If [Hoyer] gets pushed out, there will be no unifying force for the caucus,’ the source said. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if members just stopped talking to leadership altogether.’”
“The Maryland Democrat is known, in the words of one Democratic strategist, as ‘a dealmaker, a tactician’ — someone who ‘makes the trains run on time.’”
“Many moderate Democratic strategists and pro-business Democrats said privately a Democratic caucus devoid of a moderate or semi-moderate voice like Hoyer’s would cause business support to the DCCC to dry up. They also fear it could diminish if not destroy the party’s ability to attract strong candidates in the very swing districts they need to win to regain the majority.”
It is clear that Majority Leader Hoyer will defend and build on the historic measures passed during the 111th Congress and help to lead a unified Democratic Caucus back to the majority. I urge you to join me in support of Steny Hoyer for Democratic Whip.
Member of Congress
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.