Congressional Leadership Races for Dummies

Posted November 11, 2008 at 2:07pm

House and Senate lawmakers will be back on Capitol Hill next week to elect their party leaders for the 111th Congress. And unless you’ve been using a dry-erase board to keep tabs on the races, you may have lost track of who’s in and who’s out.

Here’s a quick look at how leadership is shaping up in the next Congress. House Republicans will hold elections Nov. 19. Senate Democrats and Republicans will hold elections at their weekly luncheons on Tuesday.

House Democrats

Who’s In: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) will keep their leadership posts for another two-year term. Van Hollen also will take on a second leadership role as Assistant to the Speaker to advise on policy. Reps. John Larson (Conn.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.) are on track to become Democratic Caucus Chairman and Vice Chairman, respectively. Becerra still faces a potential challenge from Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio).

Who’s Out: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) is leaving the Caucus Chairman post to serve as President-elect Obama’s chief of staff. Reps. Kendrick Meek (Fla.), Joe Crowley (N.Y.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) — each considered rising stars within the party — all ruled out runs for Caucus posts.

House Republicans

Who’s In: Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) is currently the lone Republican to keep his leadership post in the new Congress. Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.) appears to be the only candidate for Minority Whip, succeeding Rep. Roy Blunt (Ohio). Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) is staged to serve as the next Republican Conference Chairman, while Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) is on track to be the Conference Vice Chairwoman. Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) is challenging Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) to take the helm at the National Republican Congressional Committee. Cole is the current NRCC chairman. Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas) is challenging Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) for Policy Committee Chairman.

Who’s Out: Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.) was the first leadership casualty when he bowed out as Republican Conference Chairman on election night. Blunt is stepping down as Minority Whip. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) will step down as chairman of the Republican Study Committee because the post is term-limited. Reps. Tom Price (Ga.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) are both running for the seat.

Undecided: Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.) has said he might run against Boehner for Minority Leader.

Senate Democrats

Who’s In: Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) are set to remain in the top positions next Congress. Additionally, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) will remain the Conference Vice Chairman, the No. 3 post. Also, Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray (Wash.) and Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) will keep their seats at the leadership table.

Who’s Out: Schumer has yet to say definitively whether he would agree to another cycle heading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Most believe he is stepping aside, but he has yet to make his plans public. If Schumer relinquishes the job, Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) is viewed as the frontrunner to succeed him.

Senate Republicans

Who’s In: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) are expected to hold onto their current leadership positions. Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) is relinquishing his post as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee to run for Republican Policy Committee Chairman. In turn, Conference Vice Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is seeking the NRSC gavel, potentially against Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), who is locked in an ongoing recount at home to determine whether he won a second Senate term. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) is the only lawmaker so far to launch a bid for Conference Vice Chairman.

Who’s Out: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) will not be running for another term for the No. 4 Republican Policy Committee slot so she can pursue a gubernatorial bid in 2010. Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), rumored to be interested in entering the lineup in the 111th, has decided against a run. Burr had been mentioned as a possible candidate for vice chairman of the Republican Conference.

Undecided: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) have been mentioned to as possible contenders for vice chair of the Conference, but neither has made their plans public.