Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Sunday that House Democrats would try to find seats at the leadership table for both Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.).
“We’re going to look for a way to make sure that both those Members can stay in the Democratic leadership,” Van Hollen said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Pressed on whether a deal is in the works, Van Hollen would only say that Hoyer and Clyburn are “both going to be at the table, I am absolutely convinced, in terms of helping provide guidance.”
Republican victories in Tuesday’s midterm elections pushed House Democrats into the minority in the 112th Congress. There is one fewer leadership slot for the minority party in the House, so Hoyer, the current Majority Leader, and Clyburn, the current Majority Whip, are poised for a potentially divisive battle for Minority Whip in the next Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced last week her intention to pursue the Minority Leader spot.
Van Hollen said that he likes both Hoyer and Clyburn and that they know who is getting his support for the Minority Whip position. Van Hollen said he would not make his preference public.
“They know who I am supporting right now, but this is for internal politics, and it’s not something you talk about on the air … because it’s not a preference over one person’s leadership abilities over the other,” Van Hollen said. “These are very difficult decisions for the Caucus, and I’m confident that the members of the Caucus recognize that both gentlemen bring an enormous amount to the job. And we will work it out.”
Van Hollen disputed the notion that a Hoyer-Clyburn whip race is a test of ideology. Hoyer is viewed as more moderate than Clyburn, but he has been working to counter that perception by lining up support from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Van Hollen also defended Pelosi and her leadership of the House Democrats, saying he would support her for Minority Leader.
“Nancy Pelosi’s been fighting for middle-class America for the last 24 months,” he said. “Together we’ve worked to rein in some of the special interests on Wall Street, to give consumers a fighting chance. We’ve worked to make sure that patients get health care when they’ve been paying their premiums day in and day out and when they need it the most. So the answer is yes.”
A handful of moderate Democrats have said they will not support Pelosi and that they would prefer someone more centrist to unite the Caucus. But no one has indicated plans to challenge her, and she is expected to have a lock on the position.
Van Hollen said the GOP wave was “a lot bigger than Nancy Pelosi,” noting that Republicans made a lot of headway at the state level as well. He added that the election was “a referendum on 9.5 percent unemployment and a feeling that we had not made enough progress.”
“And people are right: We have not made enough progress, and that’s why we need to fight to continue to get us out of this mess,” he said, adding that Republicans “now share some of the responsibility for getting us out of the mess that their policies helped create.”