Dems expand leadership team

Dems expand leadership team
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

House Democrats on Monday expanded their leadership team, promoting a handful of junior lawmakers to newly created positions in an effort to boost the influence of greener members.

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In a series of closed-door votes on Capitol Hill, Democrats filled four new posts. The roles were created by the caucus last week in response to cries for broad changes — sounded largely by restive new members — following the party's disastrous performance at the polls this year.

That group of Democratic insurgents failed to topple House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who easily beat back a challenge from 43-year-old Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) last week. But the outcry was loud enough to move Pelosi, 76, to accept a number of structural changes designed to bring younger faces and fresh ideas to the party's leadership ranks.

The aim was also to promote greater regional diversity, though three of the four new leaders elected Monday hail from the coasts — a dynamic that's sure to sustain the concerns among Rust Belt Democrats that the party doesn't speak to voters in their districts.  

As part of that restructuring, Pelosi carved out a new leadership post reserved for a lawmaker who's served five terms or less. Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), a prominent member of the Hispanic Caucus who was just reelected for a third term, will fill that seat. He beat out Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.) in Monday night's vote.

The caucus also selected three other relatively junior lawmakers — Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosBlue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Inside the final legislative push before the midterms MORE (D-Ill.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) — to head the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. That panel is currently headed by one chairman, outgoing-Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who was appointed by Pelosi in 2015. As part of the rules changes, the committee's chairmanship duties were split into three coequal seats chosen by the full caucus.
 
Bustos and Jeffries had been nominated by Pelosi to lead the panel. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) was her third pick, which proved unsuccessful. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and John Delaney (D-Md.) had also vied for the post.  

The caucus also voted Monday to grant Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) another two-year term at the helm of the party's campaign branch. The chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had previously been an appointment made at Pelosi's discretion. As part of the Democrats' post-election rules shakeup, the minority leader agreed to transfer that authority to the full caucus.

Congratulating Luján, Pelosi said she’s optimistic he can reverse the party's election fortunes.

"Looking forward to what you have in store," she tweeted. 

Luján, who headed the DCCC for the past two years, ran uncontested to keep the spot heading into the 2018 midterms.

Last week, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) had weighed a challenge for the post, but after speaking with Luján and Pelosi, he declined to run. Instead, Maloney will lead an examination of the Democrats' election struggles and propose recommendations to get the party back on the winning track.

Monday's votes were part of an ongoing — and still unfinished — process to select Democrats' leadership team for the next Congress.

Last week, Democrats filled a number of posts, choosing Pelosi to remain as minority leader; Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) to ascend to caucus chairman; and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) to replace Crowley as caucus vice chair.

Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the minority whip, and Jim Clyburn (S.C.), the assistant leader, were also reelected after running unopposed.

Filling out another new position, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) was elected to be the freshman leadership voice, a position chosen exclusively by newly elected members.

Pelosi on Friday also named Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) as the leaders of House Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee — two posts that remain appointed positions.

Several seats remain to be chosen, including five new vice-chairmanship spots for the DCCC.

Democrats have delayed those votes because the posts will be carved up by regions, which have yet to be determined.