Clyburn to Continue in Minority As “Assistant Leader”

Clyburn to Continue in Minority As “Assistant Leader”


After a week-long campaign for Minority Whip, current Democratic House Leadership reached an agreement on Friday whereby the current Majority Whip, Congressman James E. Clyburn will continue in a leadership position as the Democratic majority shifts to Republican hands at the start of the 112th Congress.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was actively engaged in brokering a deal between current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Congressman Clyburn.

“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,” said Pelosi.

Clyburn will remain the highest ranking African American in the House of Representatives (and in Congress for that matter) after his election to the “Assistant Leader” post.  This new number three position was created among Democratic leadership to ensure that Clyburn can continue his active engagement in negotiating consensus among his colleagues in order to push forward necessary legislative measures.

In light of the new post, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, duly noted that “Speaker Pelosi has announced her intentions to nominate our colleague Jim Clyburn to the new elected Leadership position of ‘Assistant Leader,’ which would also maintain Congressman Clyburn’s position as the third ranking Member in the Democratic Leadership.

“While our preliminary evaluation of Speaker Pelosi’s proposal has been positive among our members,” she said, “we will not make a final evaluation until the full membership of the CBC meets on Monday evening.  At that time, we will fully discuss this proposal with the benefit and input of all of our Members.”

A long term CBC Member, Congressman Clyburn (D-SC), has served as Majority Whip, the ranking majority’s number three spot in Congress, since 2007.   During his tenure, the congressman has successfully kept party members unified on important issues, and ensured their presence and participation in key votes, ranging from healthcare and economic stimulus to education and campaign finance.

Clyburn said the arrangement “honors the diversity and fosters the unity” of the Democratic Caucus.  Also by giving ethnic minorities a place in leadership, Democrats will secure “the road back to the majority.”

Despite the shift of power in the House, it was important that diversity be maintained in highly visible leadership roles.  With power transferring from a Democratic to Republican majority, ethnic representation in leadership positions in the House has dwindled substantially, despite the recent election of Alan West (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC).

Clyburn was always the exception to the ethnic leadership “rule,” and while many of his colleagues in the CBC once held Chairmanships of prominent Congressional Committees and Subcommittees, with the changing of the guard in the 112th Congress, many are now left to seek ranking member positions on the committees they once chaired.  Given the shift in the balance of power, Clyburn will still be able to protect the interests of African American communities as the only ranking voice at the table for substantial legislative issues.

Although mainstream media would have the public believe that this new post is actually a step down for Clyburn, a position that seems more likely designed to fuel the fire of internal conflict within the Democratic Party, the Assistant Leader post is not a step down. Clyburn remains the third ranking Democrat in the House, the most powerful ranking African American in all of Congress, and he will continue to move legislation forward during the next session that is both beneficial to the nation at large, and which will help propel Democratic goals of regaining the Majority in 2012.