Larson loses leadership slot, other changes in the works as delegation goes to D.C.

Washington —It was a good news/bad news day for the state’s congressional delegation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s decision, which she announced Wednesday, to run again for the House Democrats’ top leadership spot — which she is expected to win — is good for Rosa L. DeLauro, the state’s longtime representative from the 3rd District. DeLauro wants to remain co-chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a position that’s appointed by the Democratic leader.

But Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, gets the short end because he is term-limited in his job as head of the Democratic caucus, the 4th-ranking House Democratic leadership job. With Pelosi staying put in the top slot, the House members in the Nos. 2 and 3 spots can’t move up in the leadership elections that will be held after Thanksgiving because no one is ready to challenge Pelosi.

So there will be no chance for Larson to run for the No. 3 spot, that of “assistant leader.”


U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District (Photo by Uma Ramiah)


Larson could always try to challenge his colleagues in leadership, but that’s unlikely. He will remain on the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes. Members of that committee will be in the thick of discussions about the Bush-era tax breaks that are set to expire at the end of the year, and they will also help draft a tax code overhaul that’s expected in the new Congress.

In a letter to Democratic members Wednesday, Larson urged unity. “I look forward to continuing to be of service in any way I can,” the Hartford-area congressman wrote.

Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy

When the new Congress is sworn in in January, Connecticut’s congressional delegation will have different members and new roles.

The retirement of Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who has served in the Senate since 1989, may detract from the state’s influence on Capitol Hill, although some analysts say that’s not necessarily the case.

Lieberman won clout through the tradition of seniority, and by positioning himself as an independent he cast the decisive vote on a number of important issues. Lieberman rose to be the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Armed Forces Committee.

“Lieberman was very effective in getting the things he wanted,” said Ron Schurin, political science professor at the University of Connecticut.

In the next Congress, the senior senator will be Democrat Richard Blumenthal, elected to the Senate only two years ago.

And its junior senator, also a Democrat, will be Chris Murphy, who is newly elected to the Senate.

“It’s the least senior Senate delegation of any state,” Schurin said.

But Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington said Lieberman’s departure will have little impact.

“Connecticut has two able senators, and they will do just fine,” he said.

Blumenthal said he’s ready to step up to the role of the state’s senior senator. His first challenge as such is to fight for enough federal money for Connecticut’s recovery from super storm Sandy.

“The governor is making a damage assessment,” Blumenthal said Wednesday. “We will need hundreds of millions of dollars and probably billions of dollars.”

How he helps Connecticut recover from the hurricane will be a real test, said Jessica Taylor, senior analyst at the Rothenberg Political Report. “He’s one to watch.”

Blumenthal said he hopes to keep his seat on the Armed Services Committee and Judiciary Committee.

But he’s also talking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and to Murphy about switching out his other assignments on the Health, Education and Labor Committee and the Special Aging Committee.

Murphy could be assigned to one or both of the committee jobs Blumenthal wants to shed.

These days, Murphy is juggling his job as a House member with Senate orientation sessions, where he said he’s learning that chamber’s rules and getting to know the other Senate freshmen.

He said he has an advantage in having a House staff that will serve as a “building block” in putting together a Senate staff, but he hasn’t decided yet where his state offices will be.

Murphy, who slept in his House office and commuted to his home in Cheshire, will also have to find a new place to stay in Washington.

“But that’s not a priority,” he said.

Taylor said she expects Murphy to vote Democratic more often than Lieberman does, but that he could show independence sometimes.

“He ran as a moderate but was endorsed by liberal groups, so who knows?” she said.

House members

Connecticut’s senators will be in the majority in the Senate, a clear advantage, but that’s not true of the state’s House delegation to the 113th Congress. They are all Democrats, and the House remains firmly in Republican control.

DeLauro said she would have made a bid for the chairmanship of the House Appropriations subcommitee with jurisdiction over health and labor issues if House Democrats had won a majority in the Nov. 6 elections.



U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District (Photo by Uma Ramiah)


She also said that Larson’s loss of a leadership position, which is likely to go to Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., doesn’t matter.

In announcing her intention to run again for the top House position, Pelosi noted that she did so in part because Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., is willing to continue to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

That stymies the efforts of other Democratswho wanted to run for the chairmanship of the DCCC. In the most recent election cycle, Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District,  headed the DCCC’s Frontline program, which raised campaign cash for Democratic candidates.

“These decisions have not been made yet,” said Himes press secretary Elizabeth Kerr about the lawmaker’s future in the DCCC. “Jim was happy to run the Frontline program for the 2012 cycle when he was asked last year.”

A former Wall Street executive, Himes hopes to stay on the Financial Services Committee, where he is likely to move up because at least five Democrats with more seniority will be gone from that panel next year.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is expected to stay on the Armed Services Committee and the Agriculture Committee, where he’s been able to look out for the state’s defense and dairy industries.

Rep. Joe Courtney is increasingly influential,” Schurin, the UConn professor, said.

The most junior member of the delegation, Rep.-elect Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, has already developed a relationship with Pelosi, who helped Esty raise money in her tough race against Republican Andrew Roraback.

That’s likely to be an advantage to Esty. But her role in the delegation won’t be determined until she receives her committee assignments next year.