One of the first tests of whether the Democrats can succeed in just running the Congress is whether they can balance the demands of a fractious conference. Don't read overmuch into the talk that this batch of Democratic freshmen is more moderate than previous classes; while this is true, the House Democratic caucus is still a pretty liberal constituency.
So if the Democrats are going to manage the majority, they need to respect and find a place for moderates. Steny Hoyer is clearly their candidate in the current leadership shuffle. And while John Murtha now appears to be a 'bring the troops home' liberal, it looks like he's having trouble making headway in his race against Hoyer for Majority Leader:
Hoyer, Murtha Battle
By Jennifer Yachnin and John BresnahanRoll Call Staff
November 9, 2006
...Current Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was not similarly hesitant, formally announcing his bid for the Majority Leader’s office early Wednesday morning and confidently predicting that he will secure the post when Democrats vote in leadership election on Nov. 16.
“I think I’m going to win,” Hoyer said in an interview Wednesday. The Maryland lawmaker, who has served as Minority Whip since 2003, said “over a majority” of House incumbents as well as newly-elected lawmakers “have indicated that they would be supportive of me.”
But Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) — who stunned fellow lawmakers when he announced in June that he would campaign for the Majority Leader post against Hoyer — re-affirmed his own interest in the office Wednesday...
Murtha, who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, also defended his decision to seek the leadership post, asserting that not only is the office an “open seat” in the new Congress, but arguing that he outranks Hoyer in the Caucus hierarchy.
“There’s Nancy Pelosi, [Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep.] Dave Obey (D-Wis.) and myself, and then Hoyer is listed after me in the power plays,” Murtha said on NPR.
That assertion bewildered at least one Democratic House lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “In my mind that shows a lack of understanding. I like Mr. Murtha but that’s not just the way it is.”
I don't even know what Mr. Murtha means by that. To put it kindly, it sounds like he has a hard time communcating. Add this to the suggestion that we redelpoy troops from Iraq to Okinawa, because Okinawa is so close by, and you have to wonder...
“There is real genuine concern that we don’t want to see a divisive leadership fight, just at the time that we’re seeing tremendous success and tremendous unity and harmony and good feelings in the Caucus,” the lawmaker added...
A group of senior lawmakers representing a broad cross-section of the Caucus — including Reps. Barney Frank (Mass.), John Dingell (Mich.), Henry Waxman (Calif.), Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), John Lewis (Ga.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.) and James Oberstar (Minn.) — issued their own letter Wednesday urging fellow Democrats to back Hoyer’s bid.
“Steny ... has been an instrumental part of our leadership team, reaching out to all elements of our diverse Caucus and helping to bring Democrats together,” the letter stated. “Our continued unity is imperative, and we believe that the leadership team that brought us to this point should continue to lead us in the new Majority.”
In addition, the significant time Hoyer has spent over the past two years building a base of support among junior Democrats, including challengers and open-seat candidates, by raising money and making campaign visits to 80 districts, appears ready to pay dividends, as several Members-elect confirmed Wednesday that they will cast ballots for the Maryland lawmaker next week...
In addition to the Majority Leader competition, Democrats could see a contest for control of the third-ranking post of Majority Whip.
Although House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) remained the only active candidate for the post Wednesday evening it is possible that Emanuel, who has said he will not serve a second term as DCCC chairman, will make a bid for the office.
Appearing at a press briefing Wednesday, Emanuel declined to discuss his plans, asserting that he wanted to confer with fellow lawmakers before issuing a decision. “Give me 24 hours more to decide,” he said.
But even if Emanuel decides against challenging Clyburn for the post, the South Carolina lawmaker could still face competition. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the current Chief Deputy Minority Whip, has not spoken publicly about her interest in the post, but is nonetheless expected to enter the race if Emanuel does not...
Managing the expectations of the black caucus will also be a challenge for Pelosi. If Clyburn is ousted from his leadership spot, and Alcee Hastings goes not get the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee, it could get the Democrats off to a difficult start.
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