Democrats Reflect on Elections in Marathon Caucus

Posted November 16, 2010 at 3:05pm

A marathon House Democratic Caucus meeting was well into its fourth hour Tuesday afternoon with no end in sight as Members huddled behind closed doors to hear from dozens of their colleagues who lost their seats on Nov. 2.

Several lawmakers leaving the session said Members’ remarks were a mixed bag: Some took the opportunity to say goodbye, while others used their time at the microphone to air concerns about leadership decisions that may have cost them their seats.

“Most were thanking all the Members for what they had done for them in their particular races, talking about their friendships and moving our country forward,” said Rep. Heath Shuler (N..C.), a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition who is mounting a token challenge to Speaker Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader in Wednesday’s leadership elections. “There were obviously others who were disappointed in how leadership was making up, and others complimentary.”

Several Democrats acknowledged that some of the remarks from defeated lawmakers were directly critical of Pelosi’s leadership. The California Democrat has been questioned by some Members for seeking the Minority Leader job next Congress after the party lost the House in the midterms.

The Caucus by acclamation Tuesday adopted a resolution offered by Rep. David Wu (Ore.) that allowed defeated Members to speak for five minutes or more. Wu said Democrats subsequently adopted a separate resolution offered by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) to allow speaking time for all interested Democrats.

“The views are different — about who should go, who should stay, what went wrong, what went right,” Wu said, adding that it was important to have a “mature, reflective” discussion before Members decide on new leaders.

Tuesday’s caucus precedes a potentially divisive leadership election Wednesday.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) said he would seek authorization during the caucus to offer a resolution with Kaptur at the start of Wednesday’s meeting to delay the leadership races until December.

DeFazio said he and Kaptur had garnered 19 signatures so far on a letter asking Democratic leaders to push back the leadership elections until Democrats have had time to digest the election results.

Many Members who lost their seats declined to comment on what they said during the Caucus meeting.

Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.) said he and fellow Blue Dog Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C) would offer a slate of three or four changes to Caucus rules on Wednesday, including a proposal to make the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman post an elected position with an open nominating process.

Boren said it is important for Democratic leadership to have a more “centrist message.”

“One thing that the electorate told us is that we don’t want extremists of either party,” Boren said. “We want people who are going to work together, who are going to find bipartisan, common-sense solutions.”

Boren said he planned to vote for Shuler. A handful of other Democrats have said they won’t support Pelosi for Minority Leader.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were slated to meet Tuesday evening with Pelosi to discuss the group’s concerns that they get to play a significant role in the Caucus next year.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.