Top House Democrats reached a deal late Friday night to keep their entire current leadership team in place, avoiding a divisive internal fight as they seek to recover from sweeping election losses.
The agreement means that Rep. John Larson, who represents Connecticut’s 1st Congressional District, is all but certain to keep his spot as caucus chairman, the No. 4 slot on the leadership ladder.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is vying to stay on as minority leader when Republicans take control in the next Congress, announced Friday night that she would create a new, still-undefined leadership job for Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the highest ranking African-American lawmaker in the House.
“Should I receive the honor of serving as House Democratic Leader, I will nominate Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina to the number three leadership position,” Pelosi said in a statement released at about 11 p.m. Friday.
“Over the past four years, Congressman Clyburn’s effective leadership in the Whip’s Office was crucial to our passage of historic legislation on jobs, health care, veterans and Wall Street reform on behalf of the American people,” Pelosi said.
Clyburn is currently the House Majority Whip, the No. 3 spot. With their loss of 60 House seats, Democrats faced having one less leadership slot to fill when they hand the Speaker’s gavel to the GOP come January.
That sparked an intense election showdown between Clyburn and the current House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, for the whip’s job. Many observers believed the most likely outcome of that battle was a win by Hoyer, with Clyburn then moving down to challenge Larson.
But Pelosi’s decision to create a new post in between minority whip and caucus chair will keep Clyburn at his current rank, although his job duties are still murky. Only late Saturday afternoon did Pelosi’s office announce the title that would come with the new job–Assistant Democratic Leader.
Meanwhile, it remained unclear how much power Clyburn will have in his new post or what his purview will be. Congressional aides could not even say whether it would be an elected post or appointed.
A spokesman for Larson said the congressman was “thrilled that Jim Clyburn and Steny Hoyer will both return in their leadership positions. He thinks it was important for the caucus to have both these leaders at the table. And he will continue calling his colleagues and running for caucus chair.”