Democrats Agree on Leadership as Clyburn Settles for No. 3 Post

Representative James Clyburn
Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina. Photographer: Ron Sachs/Pool via Bloomberg

Congressman Jim Clyburn agreed to become the third-ranking leader in next year’s House Democratic minority, helping Speaker Nancy Pelosi avert a potentially divisive fight between two of her top lieutenants.

Under an arrangement reached two days ago, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the current majority leader, would get the No. 2 job of minority whip come January. Clyburn, now majority whip, would hold the post of assistant leader, newly created for the purpose of heading off a contest for the whip position.

“Should I receive the privilege of serving as House Democratic leader, I will be very honored to nominate our outstanding colleague, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, to serve in the number three House Democratic position,” Pelosi, 70, said in an e-mailed note yesterday to fellow Democrats. Clyburn’s “strategic leadership as whip was crucial to our passage of historic legislation on jobs, health care, veterans and Wall Street reform on behalf of the American people,” she said.

Hoyer, 71, announced Nov. 8 that he would seek to retain his No. 2 position in the leadership ranks and Clyburn, 70, the lone black among the Democratic hierarchy, said he, too, would run for minority whip.

Clyburn said in a statement yesterday that the arrangement “honors the diversity and fosters the unity” of House Democrats by “adding another chair to the leadership table with a substantive, well-defined portfolio.” Giving minorities representation is “the road back to the majority” for the party.

The decision by Pelosi on Nov. 5 to run for minority leader rather than step aside had set up the potential fight after Democrats lost their House majority in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, and with it one of three leadership jobs. No one has announced a challenge to Pelosi.

Democrats lost at least 60 House seats in the Nov. 2 elections, reducing their caucus to about 188 members and meaning it would take at least 95 votes, in a secret ballot, to win a spot in the leadership.