Pelosi: Seniority isn't everything

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiConservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices Why do Republicans keep trying to outspend Democrats in Congress? MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday amplified her message that seniority should not decide committee posts.

Facing pressure from Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) leaders who are pushing seniority as the chief factor, Pelosi said talent should trump longevity. 

"It's a difference of opinion in the caucus," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "And I, myself, believe that we must have the most talented people and that seniority makes you a contender, but it does not make you a chairman. 

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"It's a consideration," she added, "it is not a determination."

The issue is a highly contentious one within the Democratic Caucus this month, as Pelosi has endorsed Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Planned Parenthood ousts its president | Harris releases drug pricing plan | House Dem drug plan delayed until after recess Democratic chair: Medicare negotiating drug prices not moving before August House bill targets use of Pentagon networks for child pornography MORE (D-Calif.), a close ally, over the more senior Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) for the top Democratic spot on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The seat is opening up next year with the retirement of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

Against that backdrop, CBC Chairwoman Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment New York bans discrimination against natural hair Democrats already jockeying for House leadership posts MORE (D-Ohio) wrote a letter to House Democrats last week arguing that despite "very limited" cases when more junior members have assumed top committee spots, "the seniority system has worked well and should be honored."

"[T]hose who through years of service have gained significant expertise and knowledge should be given priority to lead our committees and sub-committees," Fudge wrote.

The CBC has a great interest in the seniority issue, as seven members of the group are in line for ranking member seats in the next Congress.

The Energy and Commerce race has split Pelosi and her top lieutenant, Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Problem Solvers are bringing real change to Congress Israel vote will expose Democratic divisions This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill MORE (D-Md.), who is backing Pallone, largely based on his seniority on the panel.

"I have historically been for the ranking member, the senior member, if that member is capable and able, and if that member has contributed significantly to the legislative product," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said earlier in the year. "I think Frank Pallone has done all those."

At Tuesday's press conference, Pelosi offered other party leaders the opportunity to address the seniority question.

"My other colleagues may wish to address that, but maybe they won't," she said.

Both Hoyer and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a leading voice in the CBC, declined to do so.