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Clyburn to Serve as Assistant Leader

Updated: 6:09 p.m.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will designate Majority Whip James Clyburn as Assistant Leader in the 112th Congress, according to a letter she sent to Members on Saturday.

Clyburn will be the No. 3 Democrat in the party leadership in the next Congress behind Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Pelosi is running unopposed to serve as Minority Leader; Hoyer is vying to be Minority Whip. Clyburn and Hoyer had been dueling for the No. 2 Whip slot until Friday when Pelosi announced that Clyburn would take an unspecified No. 3 position. Saturday’s letter made clear the job would be the Assistant Leader.

“Jim Clyburn has had a very significant personal impact on our key legislation, ensuring expanded college opportunities for millions of students, expanding community health centers in the health care law, and promoting jobs through investments in infrastructure, including rural broadband,” Pelosi wrote to Democrats in a “Dear Colleague” letter.

Clyburn, meanwhile, sent his own letter to his colleagues urging their support for Pelosi’s plan.

“It adds an elected Leadership position and maintains a Leadership structure that honors the diversity and fosters the unity of our Caucus,” Clyburn said. “To me, the best way to resolve this issue, maintain diversity in the leadership and cohesion in our Caucus is to pull up another chair to the leadership table with a substantive, well-defined portfolio that will contribute in a meaningful way to our important work and to regaining the majority.

Clyburn said in the letter that he wanted to maintain the diversity in the party’s leadership, and he said that the suggestion by some that every Member of current hierarchy take a step back would have left Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.) out of the leadership.

“We must be able to connect and communicate with the significant African American, Latino and Asian American communities in this country, most especially in marginal districts,” Clyburn said. “The road back to the majority runs largely through those these caucuses and the communities they represent.”

It is unclear what Clyburn’s responsibilities will be as Assistant Leader. It is also unclear whether the job is different from the Assistant to the Speaker position currently held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Clyburn and Hoyer had been battling it out in recent days for the Minority Whip spot after Pelosi announced on Nov. 5 that she was running for the top job. In creating the Assistant Leader job, Pelosi adds another position to the hierarchy. Clyburn would be above the Caucus chairman and Caucus vice chairman. Current Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Vice Chairman Becerra are running to retain those same posts in the next Congress.

Democratic leadership elections are slated for Wednesday.

Hoyer issued a statement Saturday evening saying it was important “for my friend Jim Clyburn to continue serving our Caucus as the third ranking Member of our Leadership.  It is my hope that happens when elections are held on Wednesday.”

“With the support of my colleagues from across the Caucus, I look forward to serving as the Democratic Whip, the number two position in Democratic Leadership in the 112th Congress,” he added.

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