House Democrats start to look past Pelosi for new lead­er­ship

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

House Democrats are stick­ing with Nancy Pelosi as their leader after their party suf­fered hu­mil­i­at­ing losses in last week’s elec­tions, but many of them are pri­vately eye­ing a post-Pelosi era, say­ing they think she will cede power when Pres­i­dent Obama’s ten­ure ends in two years.

For now, Mrs. Pelosi’s po­si­tion is se­cure. No­body has stepped for­ward to chal­lenge the Cal­i­for­nian’s lead­er­ship, and two of her po­ten­tial ri­vals have said they will con­tinue to seek lower lead­er­ship posts.

But sup­port­ers have qui­etly be­gun to talk about those who could as­cend to the top job even­tu­ally, in­clud­ing House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who has played sec­ond fid­dle to Mrs. Pelosi for years, and House Bud­get Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who has built a strong fol­low­ing in the cau­cus as one of Mrs. Pelosi’s top lieu­tenants.

“Ev­ery­one is al­ways look­ing to the fu­ture to see what is go­ing to hap­pen down the line, es­pe­cially at a time like this,” said a veteran House Demo­cratic aide.

Law­mak­ers re­turn Wed­nes­day for a lame-duck ses­sion after three months of nearly un­in­ter­rupted time away from Capi­tol Hill. Those who were newly elected last week will be in town for ori­en­ta­tion and to vote on lead­ers for the 114th Congress. House Democrats hold their elec­tion this week.

Mr. Van Hollen and Mr. Hoyer have pledged their support for Mrs. Pelosi.

“She has been ef­fec­tive in lead­ing the Demo­cratic cau­cus,” said Mr. Van Hollen. “If you look at her record, in­clud­ing the pe­riod when she was speaker of the House and George Bush was pres­i­dent, you ac­tu­ally find a pe­riod when peo­ple were able to work to­gether to get things done, in­clud­ing the fact that she helped Pres­i­dent Bush pre­vent the melt­down of the fi­nan­cial in­dus­try.”

Other names bandied about on Capi­tol Hill as po­ten­tial suc­ces­sors to Mrs. Pelosi in two years in­clude As­sis­tant Demo­cratic Leader James E. Cly­burn of South Carolina, Demo­cratic cau­cus Chair­man Xavier Be­cerra of Cal­i­for­nia and Demo­cratic cau­cus Vice Chair­man Joseph Crow­ley of New York.

Mem­bers also are talk­ing about the need for “new blood” in lead­er­ship roles, said a Demo­cratic Capi­tol Hill in­sider, who men­tioned up-and-com­ing Rep. Donna F. Ed­wards of Maryland.

Ms. Ed­wards is con­sid­ered a pos­si­ble con­tender to suc­ceed Rep. Steve Is­rael of New York next year as chair­man of the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, though some mem­bers have raised doubts about her prow­ess at fundrais­ing, which is a chief re­spon­si­bil­ity of the job.

Mr. Is­rael is the only mem­ber of the Demo­cratic lead­er­ship team who plans to step down.

In­deed, all four of the party cau­cuses ap­pear poised to re­turn their top posts, mean­ing Harry Reid of Ne­vada will con­tinue to lead Se­nate Democrats, Speaker John A. Boehner will lead House Repub­li­cans and Mitch McCon­nell will be­come Se­nate majority leader.

Sev­eral House Democrats ac­knowl­edged that Repub­li­cans suc­ceeded in mak­ing Mrs. Pelosi a sym­bol of dys­func­tion in Wash­ing­ton by in­vok­ing her name along­side Mr. Obama’s and Mr. Reid’s to whip up con­ser­va­tive support.

But Democrats in­sisted that Mrs. Pelosi was not a li­a­bil­ity inside the cau­cus.

“Look, you can al­ways learn from ex­pe­ri­ence and there’s al­ways op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove, but I don’t think any­body thinks that re­plac­ing Nancy Pelosi as Demo­cratic leader will some­how elim­i­nate the Repub­li­cans’ vil­i­fi­ca­tion of Pres­i­dent Obama or, for that mat­ter, their vil­i­fi­ca­tion of Nancy Pelosi,” said Rep. Alan Grayson, Florida Demo­crat.

“The fact that they ran a smear cam­paign against the pres­i­dent and mis­char­ac­ter­ized the pres­i­dents’ ac­com­plish­ments and they ran a sim­i­lar smear cam­paign against Nancy Pelosi vil­i­fy­ing her in part be­cause she’s the high­est elected fe­male of­fi­cial in the United States — at least for the next two years — that would some­how dis­qual­ify Nancy Pelosi to be our leader? Quite to the con­trary. That would be let­ting the smear cam­paign suc­ceed, wouldn’t it?” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sev­eral House Democrats ac­knowl­edged that Repub­li­cans suc­ceeded in mak­ing House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi a sym­bol of dys­func­tion in Wash­ing­ton by in­vok­ing her name along­side Pres­i­dent Obama’s and Se­nate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s to whip up...

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