Nancy Pelosi creates new leadership post for Clyburn in bid to settle Democratic fight

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 13, 2010; 11:22 AM

Trying to resolve a dispute among her top lieutenants, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday night indirectly backed her longtime adversary, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), to continue serving as her chief deputy.

Pelosi's move came in an unusual statement late Friday night that endorsed Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) for the No. 3 post in the House Democratic leadership. Rather than endorse Clyburn for the current No. 3 position of caucus chairman, she plans to create a new, undefined leadership position for him, a leadership source explained Saturday.

Hoyer, the current majority leader, and Clyburn, the majority whip, are vying to be elected minority whip in the next Congress when House Democrats vote Wednesday. That position will rank second behind Pelosi, who is expected to be minority leader.

Pelosi's statement amounted to an endorsement of keeping her leadership team intact, rather than trying to purify ranks for the party's liberals, as some lawmakers and activists have urged.

And it could be viewed as a recognition that Hoyer, an ally of many of the party's centrists and few remaining conservatives, had collected far more votes than had Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in congressional history.

Pelosi's hold on the top Democratic position has been dramatically weakened by her party's historic loss of at least 60 seats, and more than two dozen Democrats have questioned the viability of her leadership team, as well as her plan to continue as their spokeswoman.

With Clyburn endorsed for the No. 3 position, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) has Pelosi's backing to stay on as caucus chairman when Democrats go into the minority next year. Larson currently holds that title, but it's the No. 4 position in the majority. Out of power, Democrats lose the speaker's gavel and have one less elected leadership post. So Pelosi has opted to ask her caucus to approve the creation of a new position in order to keep the entire leadership team intact.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company