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Clyburn on Chairing Caucus: Been There, Done That

Updated: 6:15 p.m.

Majority Whip James Clyburn signaled Monday afternoon that he has no interest in stepping down to Caucus chairman and that he is digging in his heels in his battle against Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) for the Minority Whip’s job in the next Congress.

“I’ve been there,” the South Carolina lawmaker said with a laugh when he was asked during a short interview in the Capitol whether he had any interest in the Caucus chairman post, a job he held before he was elected Whip four years ago.

Democrats will be in the minority in the House in the 112th Congress and will have one fewer leadership position. In light of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (Calif.) decision to run for Minority Leader, Hoyer’s allies have said the logical solution to the leadership shuffle would be for everyone to step down a rung. But Clyburn, Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) all are seeking their current positions in the minority.

“I’ve been reading that for a long time about everybody stepping back a notch. We’ll see how all this works out,” Clyburn said.

He also dismissed another scenario that had been floated recently: that he might accept a senior position on the Appropriations Committee in exchange for ceding the Whip’s post to Hoyer.

Clyburn and Hoyer both were at the Capitol on Monday and continuing to call Members to line up supporters. A Democratic aide confirmed that the two met in person at the Capitol during the day.

Asked whether he was in negotiations on a deal to resolve the contentious Whip race ahead of a possible vote next week, Clyburn only said: “I’ve talked to Hoyer today. I’ve talked to the Speaker today. I’ve talked to a whole lot of Members today.” He said he would meet Monday afternoon with Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Clyburn was noncommittal about when he thought the situation would be resolved. “We’ll see. We’re all in prayerful deliberations,” he said. “As soon as our prayers are answered.”
Appearing Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Clyburn suggested the Whip race would be resolved in the coming days “in such a way that our Caucus will be very satisfied with the leadership team going forward.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), an early Clyburn supporter and the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Roll Call on Monday afternoon that it was “very important that the diversity of this party and the diversity of the country be reflected” in the Democratic leadership.

“There is no way that we can have a leadership team that is not diverse,” she said.

Lee, who sent a letter earlier Monday to House Democrats urging support for Clyburn, said most CBC members want Clyburn as Whip because “that is the most logical position for him.” She touted his ability as a vote counter and his experience working with Members from across the geographical spectrum.

Asked whether she thought it would be acceptable for Clyburn to be bumped down to Caucus chairman, Lee said, “We have to wait and see.”

She added, “Most of us who are supporting Mr. Clyburn want to see him remain as our Whip.”

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