House Democrats Adopt Just One Steering Committee Rules Change

Posted November 18, 2010 at 1:51pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has given a small nod to unhappy moderates in her Caucus by agreeing to alter the way in which co-chairmen of the Steering and Policy Committee are chosen. 

Under a rules change that the House Democratic Caucus approved Thursday, the two heads of the Steering and Policy Committee now will be chosen by Steering and Policy members, rather than designated by the Speaker. The California Democrat proposed the change as an alternative to another proposal put forth by a band of moderates who wanted the Steering and Policy co-chairmen to be elected by the full Caucus in an open nominating process. 

Pelosi’s proposal was an apparent attempt to appease moderates in her Caucus a day after 43 defectors backed Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) over her for Minority Leader in a secret ballot election.

But Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), a representative of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition that was backing a slate of rules changes aimed at decentralizing power in the Caucus, said that while the change represented a move in the right direction, he was not satisfied. 

“I still think that it ought to be elected by the whole Caucus,” Matheson said. “I mean, there was movement here … but I think the substance of what we tried to advocate for matters. I think a lot of people in the Caucus hadn’t thought about this at all before today, and I think the good thing is that we generated a lot of discussion and actually there’s a lot of understanding that maybe the Caucus ought to look at a lot of its rules structure.” 

Matheson said he and his moderate allies decided to drop their other proposals — which included electing the chairmen of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Rules Committee through a more open nominating process — after it was clear they did not have the votes to pass. 

“Look, I can count votes,” Matheson said. 

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders either directly or indirectly control the bulk of the spots on Steering and Policy. 

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who currently co-chairs the Steering and Policy group with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), disputed the notion that the vote was a direct rebuke to her and Miller’s leadership. 

“I’m fine with whatever the Caucus feels,” DeLauro said. She declined to say whether she would try to stay on as a Steering and Policy co-chairwoman.