Clyburn will need al­lies to move up in House lead­er­ship

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - News - BY EMMA DUMAIN edu­main@mc­clatchydc.com Emma Dumain: 202-383- 6126, @Em­ma_Du­main

To as­cend to one of the top two House Demo­cratic lead­er­ship slots next year, Rep. Jim Clyburn needs to at­tract law­mak­ers like Rep. Ro Khanna.

Khanna – an In­di­anAmer­i­can fresh­man Demo­crat from Cal­i­for­nia and proudly lib­eral – didn’t know much about the South Carolina Demo­crat un­til mid-Oc­to­ber, when the two men toured His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties around Clyburn’s district.

Now Khanna’s back­ing Clyburn for Speaker or Ma­jor­ity Leader if Democrats win con­trol of the House, as­sum­ing Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­i­for­nia, can’t win the top job her­self.

At 78 and the high­es­trank­ing black law­maker on Capi­tol Hill, Clyburn would be the first AfricanAmer­i­can to hold one of the top two con­gres­sional lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

“It would be some­thing so good for this coun­try to see – that, at this time in par­tic­u­lar in our na­tion, de­spite all this di­vi­sive­ness and set­backs on race, there is still a for­ward march of progress,” Khanna said. “(Clyburn’s) fa­ther was not al­lowed to grad­u­ate from high school be­cause he was black … and Clyburn rises to the very top of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. That is the story of Amer­ica.”

Khanna’s ex­cite­ment about Clyburn il­lus­trates the open­ing Clyburn has to climb the ranks: By ap­peal­ing to other, up- and-com­ing House Democrats who want to make his­tory with the first black speaker.

But Khanna’s jour­ney also high­lights the chal­lenges Clyburn faces in build­ing his base. After a 24-year con­gres­sional ca­reer as a savvy in­sider, rather than a self-pro­mot­ing me­dia per­son­al­ity, not ev­ery House Demo­crat knows what he does and why he might de­serve a pro­mo­tion.

That’s why, with­out even know­ing if Democrats will win a House ma­jor­ity on Election Day, Clyburn has to make his case.

He and his al­lies will need to talk di­rectly to the Khan­nas of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus – mem­bers who might chafe at the op­tics of tak­ing down the first woman speaker and re­plac­ing her with cur­rent No. 2 Steny Hoyer of Mary­land, a white man who is also ey­ing the speak­er­ship.

As iden­tity pol­i­tics have over­taken the Demo­cratic Party, mem­bers could be asked to con­front whether the high­est lev­els of elected lead­er­ship should re­flect the party’s di­ver­sity.

There’s a con­stituency for such an ar­gu­ment. After the midterms, the Demo­cratic Cau­cus could be more di­verse than it has ever been.

The Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus alone is cur­rently made up of 45 of the 193 House Democrats, and after the election, that num­ber could grow to the low to mid 50s.

Twenty-six House Democrats in the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus are ex­pected to re­turn in the next Congress and that con­tin­gent could pick up ad­di­tional mem­bers. Four­teen House Democrats now iden­tify as AsianAmer­i­can, Asian-Pa­cific Amer­i­can, or South AsianAmer­i­can.

Two Na­tive Amer­i­cans and a record num­ber of women are poised to win their elec­tions as Democrats, too.

And South­ern­ers who want re­gional di­ver­sity in their lead­er­ship – and be­lieve the Demo­cratic Party needs to do a bet­ter job mak­ing in­roads with south­ern vot­ers — could also be swayed to­wards Clyburn.

“We’ve got to reach after seats in the South and no­body un­der­stands the is­sues that con­front peo­ple in the south bet­ter than Jim Clyburn,” said Rep. San­ford Bishop, DGe­or­gia, a mem­ber of the Black Cau­cus and the con­ser­va­tive Blue Dog Coali­tion.

That could also be a con­sid­er­a­tion for Rep. John Yar­muth of Ken­tucky, the top Demo­crat on the House Bud­get Com­mit­tee.

Yar­muth, who is white, told McClatchy he would, like Khanna, sup­port Pelosi for speaker. But if Pelosi doesn’t have the votes, Yar­muth sug­gested he could end up sup­port­ing Clyburn specif­i­cally for speaker or ma­jor­ity leader.

“Jim Clyburn has the wis­dom, stature and judg­ment to ex­cel as speaker, ma­jor­ity leader, ma­jor­ity whip or any other role,” Yar­muth said.

The big­gest road­block for Clyburn, presently the third-rank­ing House Demo­crat and as­sis­tant mi­nor- ity leader, is 79-year-old Hoyer, cur­rently the mi­nor­ity whip. If Pelosi steps down, Hoyer is ex­pected to run to be­come speaker. If 78-year-old Pelosi stays, Hoyer will seek to re­tain his cur­rent rank.

Many House Democrats in­sist their party won’t want to kick off its new ma­jor­ity with an ugly lead­er­ship fight, and pre­dict Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn will all just pick up the ti­tles they held the last time they were in power from 2007-2011: Speaker, Leader and Whip.

But Black Cau­cus mem­bers are push­ing hard for one of their own to be in one of the top two lead­er­ship po­si­tions, aware that the ma­jor­ity whip of­ten gets left out of the high­est-level ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“I don’t know why peo­ple just as­sume (Clyburn) should be No. 3,” said Rep. Mar­cia Fudge, D- Ohio, a for­mer Black Cau­cus chair­woman. “The days of go­ing to the back of the bus are over.”

DCBureau

If Democrats re­take con­trol of the U.S. House, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina could be­come the first African-Amer­i­can to hold one of the top two con­gres­sional lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

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