Black caucus not ready to endorse Pelosi deal

The Congressional Black Caucus is withholding its endorsement of a proposal by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to create a new Democratic leadership position for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

The CBC met for nearly two hours on Monday to discuss the deal that Pelosi brokered to end a leadership battle between Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Clyburn, who had been vying for the second-ranking post of minority whip.

The caucus chairwoman, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), said after the meeting that the CBC wanted more details about Clyburn’s policy and strategy portfolio and was “reserving judgment” about the package the Speaker is offering.

“We fully support our current whip, Mr. Clyburn, for the No. 3 position and we’re currently reserving judgment on the entire package until we see what the actual portfolio entails in terms of responsibilities,” Lee told reporters.

Pelosi announced late Friday night that she would nominate Clyburn for the third-ranking position in the Democratic minority hierarchy, a post that she later identified as “assistant leader.” Clyburn said he accepted the offer in part because of the strong desire among House Democrats to avoid choosing between him and Hoyer, two well-liked party elders.

The CBC had campaigned for Clyburn to remain as whip, arguing that the caucus’s 40-plus members needed to be both represented and respected at the leadership table.

The caucus’s ambivalence about the Pelosi offer underscores the questions that remain about the precise scope of the assistant leader post.

“We don’t know what it is,” Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) said after the CBC meeting. She said the caucus wanted to know what Clyburn’s portfolio would be, including its budget, and to ensure that the post was “not a marginal, ceremonial-type of position.”

A senior Democratic aide told The Hill that in a leadership meeting on Monday, Pelosi denied that she was creating an entirely new position, describing the assistant leader post as similar to the appointed post of “assistant to the Speaker,” which is now held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The key difference is that Clyburn would have a higher rank and must be elected by the full Democratic caucus. The caucus is holding its leadership elections on Wednesday.

Lee said discussions with the leadership team would continue over the coming days. Clyburn declined to comment to reporters.