House Dems promote younger members as party heads into the minority

As they prepare to slip into the minority, House Democratic leaders announced Tuesday the promotion of several younger members to higher-profile leadership posts in the new Congress.

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Democratic leaders have come under fire since the midterm elections because the leadership structure remained virtually untouched after historic Democratic losses. Indeed, outgoing-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) — the top three Democrats of the last two Congresses — will remain so in the 112th Congress despite enormous losses at the polls in November.

Both Pelosi and Clyburn are 70 years old, while Hoyer is 71, leading some strategists to wonder when Democratic leaders would allow fresh faces into the mix.

But on Tuesday Pelosi announced new responsibilities for two younger lawmakers.

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Henry Cuellar (Texas) will see expanded duties when they move into their new roles as vice chairmen of the Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee, she said.

The new responsibilities will center around communications, as the Democrats believe it was their failure to explain their policies — as opposed to the policies themselves — that led to landslide losses in the midterm elections.

Wasserman Schultz will focus on "job creation, deficit reduction and strengthening the middle class," Pelosi said, while Cuellar will concentrate on "deficit reduction, procurement reform [and] ending waste, fraud and abuse."

Just elected to her fourth term, the 44-year-old Wasserman Schultz is practically an unofficial spokesperson for the House Democrats, frequently representing the caucus on the cable news circuit.

Cuellar, 55, is a member of both the Blue Dog and Hispanic caucuses, lending further diversity to the Democrats' leadership structure.

"With their leadership, the Democrats will present a strong message to the American people [that we're] putting jobs first, ensuring a thriving middle class and being fiscally responsible as we do so," Pelosi said.

As leader of the Democrats, Pelosi will remain chairwoman of the Steering and Policy Committee. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and George Miller (Calif.) will remain co-chairmen of that panel.

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