Narrowly avoiding a contentious battle royale for top leadership posts in the new Democratic House minority for the 112th Congress, current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was able to craft an eleventh hour surprise deal between Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. James Clyburn over the weekend. The deal, praised by some Democratic insiders and skeptically viewed by others, assures that current House Majority Whip Clyburn can maintain his status within the leadership as Democrats transition into the minority.
Despite that, Pelosi will now have to face a contest of her own as conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat Heath Shuler (D-NC) has announced his intention to run for the House Minority Leader post, a spot that is virtually Pelosi’s for the taking. Shuler’s bid comes amid some grumbling within the Democratic caucus that Pelosi should step down after overseeing the worst electoral losses for House Democrats since 1948.
Shuler himself suggests it’s a long shot, symbolic bid as he is outmatched and outgunned by a senior Democrat legendary for her political abilities and known for her knuckle-up, tough leadership style defined by a fierce commitment to loyalty. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the North Carolina Congressman admitted to the diminished influence of a battered Blue Dog coalition, which at one time held up many a marquee Democratic legislative proposal with demands for compromise:
I’ve said all along I’m hoping that Nancy Pelosi will step aside. Because of her being at the very top right now, no one’s willing to throw their hat in the ring. And if it comes down to this coming week and she doesn’t step aside, then I will challenge her. I can add and subtract pretty well – I don’t have the numbers to be able to win. Let’s be realistic about it. I mean, there’s a reason why … I mean, over 60 moderates lost in this 2010 election, so I mean, the moderates lost.
Shuler could be making a play for more influence within the House Democratic Caucus as it becomes a minority next session of Congress. But, he’s doing so at great risk and could draw the ire of both Pelosi and her loyalists. Still, Shuler is not alone as a growing chorus of Democratic Members are expressing dissatisfaction with Pelosi’s decision to remain as House caucus leader. Some have already called for her to step down.