Pelosi’s decision freezes Hoyer, Van Hollen in place

November 14, 2012

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) announcement Wednesday that she will stay in her job means two Maryland Democrats — Reps. Steny Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen — will be stuck in place for at least two more years.

Speculation had swirled for weeks about whether Pelosi would step down from the post, a move that would have given Hoyer, currently the minority whip, a strong shot at attaining his longtime goal of ascending to the top Democratic leadership job. Though a handful of younger Democrats — including Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Fla.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — are thought to be eyeing future promotions, there was no obvious candidate who would have beaten Hoyer in a fight for the Minority Leader post.

Now Hoyer will stay on as whip while Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) will remain in the No. 3 Democratic job and Becerra is moving into the Democratic Caucus chairman position.

In a letter to his Democratic colleagues Wednesday, Hoyer said the party’s goals “require an experienced team to lead us forward. That is why I am running for Democratic Whip, and I look forward to serving with Leader Pelosi in the next Congress.”

The lack of movement means there is nowhere for Van Hollen to go. He also is part of the next generation of Democrats hoping to move into leadership jobs, though it was never clear whether there would be room for both him and Hoyer at the highest reaches of leadership. Van Hollen is 53 while Pelosi is 72 and Hoyer is 73.

“Leader Pelosi has demonstrated great leadership for the country and our caucus,” Van Hollen said after Wednesday’s announcement. “I applaud her decision to continue lead House Democrats.”

Van Hollen also is thought by Maryland Democrats to covet a U.S. Senate seat, but Sen. Ben Cardin (D) was just reelected and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) has given no signal that she plans to retire soon, so the House Democratic leadership may be the clearer path for him in the near-term.

Van Hollen will still be busy in the next Congress. He is expected to remain the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, giving him a chance to continue sparring with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is seeking a waiver from Republican term-limit rules to stay on as budget chairman. And Van Hollen will again be a key player in negotiations to avoid the upcoming “fiscal cliff” and strike a long-term deficit-reduction deal.

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