Black Caucus head pushing support for Clyburn in whip race

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is whipping support this week for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to remain the Democratic whip in the next Congress.

Clyburn, the current majority whip, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are both vying for the whip spot next year.

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In a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to Democrats Monday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the head of the CBC, said Clyburn's record securing tough votes in the 111th Congress makes him best suited to keep the position in the 112th Congress.

"Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn has been an extremely effective consensus-builder, rounding up the votes for what has been called the most productive Congress in decades," Lee wrote. "Thanks to his leadership and precise vote counting skills, we were able to pass the Recovery Act, health care reform (which included landmark student loan reform), Wall Street reform, and many other pieces of legislation that are helping to turn our country around.

"As we transition into the minority, it is even more important that Jim Clyburn continue in his role as Whip."

With Speaker Nancy Pelosi hoping to keep her position atop the party next year, it's become a crowded field for current leaders hoping to maintain a supporting role just below the California Democrat, who remains unchallenged.

Had Pelosi stepped down after the Democrats' midterm trouncing last week, Hoyer was heir apparent toher post. But Hoyer had also vowed not to challenge Pelosi if she decided to stay on, leading to his (still-unofficial) challenge against Clyburn for the No. 2 spot.

Clyburn on Monday acknowledged that he's got a tough fight ahead, but vowed the contest won't create acrimony within the party.

"I suspect that I've been the underdog most of my political life and I probably am the underdog in this race," he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"I've only been here 18 years. Steny has been here around 30. I have my friends. He's got his friends. And the two of us are friends. We are talking constantly. Everybody is doing this in the open, nothing surreptitious about this … We're not going to leave this contest angry at each other."

It remains unclear whether CBC members will side unanimously with Clyburn. Lee's "Dear Colleague" letter was written on behalf of herself, not the entire caucus, and several CBC members hail from Hoyer's state of Maryland.

On Monday, CBC member Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) told The Hill he would support Pelosi and Clyburn for the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the next Congress.