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Races heat up for House leadership posts

The Big Three in the House Democratic Caucus — Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils virus plan and urges patience | Fauci says it's 'liberating' working under Biden | House to move quickly on COVID-19 relief Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 On The Money: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief | Biden faces backlash over debt | 900,000 more Americans file for unemployment benefits MORE (Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE (Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) — are expected to cruise to reelection in the caucus, keeping the top leadership team intact for another two years.

But with less than eight weeks until the Nov. 3 elections, ambitious Democrats have started making calls and jockeying for the other leadership slots seen as stepping stones to more high-profile jobs.

“Seems the list of people running is longer than those not running,” joked one House Democratic lawmaker. “Suffice to say it is very active.”

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Closed-door leadership elections will take place shortly after the general election. Here is the state of play.

 

Assistant Speaker

With Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) poised to win a promotion to the Senate this fall, his impending departure has set off a competitive three-way scramble to fill his leadership post.

Reps. David CicillineDavid CicillineK Street navigates virtual inauguration week Washington state rep joins list of Republicans voting to impeach Trump Growing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment MORE (D-R.I.) and Tony CardenasAntonio (Tony) CardenasMORE (D-Calif.) have already thrown their hats in the ring; Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated MORE (D-Mass.), who’s been making calls to shore up support, is expected to join them.

All three lawmakers have their strengths, and people tracking the race say there is no clear front-runner at the moment. As head of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), Cicilline has experience at the leadership table and played a key role in shaping the party’s messaging against the Trump White House. He’s also co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the top openly gay Democrat on Pelosi’s leadership team.

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But either a Cardenas or Clark victory would satisfy factions who have been clamoring for a woman or a Hispanic American to fill one of the open top leadership posts. Cardenas has run the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) BOLD PAC, raising millions for Democrats and growing the membership of the CHC.

Clark, the House Democratic Caucus’s vice chair, is the highest-ranking woman in leadership after Pelosi. She’s a proven fundraiser as well and has been building bridges with minority and female Democrats, who will be instrumental in choosing the next assistant Speaker.

 

Democratic caucus vice chair

Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Lawmakers mount pressure on Trump to leave office Sunday shows - Capitol siege, Trump future dominate MORE (D-N.Y.), seen by many to be the heir apparent to Pelosi, is staying put in his job managing the 232-member caucus. But with his deputy, Clark, looking to move up the ladder, a handful of rank-and-file Democrats are eyeing the vice chairman job.

At least three lawmakers — Reps. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarAOC v. Pelosi: Round 12? Maloney to lead Democrats' campaign arm House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress MORE (D-Calif.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyDemocrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Lawmakers push for improved diabetes care through tech advancements MORE (D-Ill.) and Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands What Biden's Cabinet picks mean for the hardest-hit US industry MORE (D-N.M.) — have started making calls to colleagues about the vice chair job, sources said. Aguilar, a chief deputy whip and member of the Hispanic Caucus elected in 2014, was defeated by Clark two years ago in the race for vice chair. But he could see an edge if Cardenas loses his assistant Speaker’s race and Democrats want to ensure the CHC has a seat at the table.

“If Cardenas loses, Pete Aguilar would be the only Hispanic person running for leadership,” one Democratic source noted.

Kelly, who won a 2013 special election, is a popular member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and respected by colleagues. She served with former President Obama in the Illinois statehouse and is co-chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Haaland, the former New Mexico Democratic Party chair, made history in 2018 when she became one of the first two female Native Americans elected to Congress, along with Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsBiden: Federal government 'has long-broken promises to Native American tribes' Overnight Energy: Biden makes historic pick with Haaland for Interior | Biden set to tap North Carolina official to lead EPA | Gina McCarthy forges new path as White House climate lead Biden makes historic pick with Haaland for Interior secretary MORE (D-Kan.).

 

Democratic Policy and Communications Committee chair

With Cicilline looking for a promotion, his three deputies — DPCC co-Chairs Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellDemocrats to levy fines on maskless lawmakers on House floor Growing number of lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after Capitol siege Democrats offer bill fining lawmakers who don't wear masks in Capitol MORE (D-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuHouse Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis Washington state rep joins list of Republicans voting to impeach Trump Growing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) and Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election The Hill's Campaign Newsletter: Election Day – Part 4 MORE (D-Pa.) — are all vying to become head of the Democrats’ policy and messaging operation.

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Until the last Congress, the DPCC had operated with three co-equal chairs, but Pelosi created the top post for Cicilline to avert a competitive race between two of her allies, Cicilline and Luján, for the assistant Speaker job.

Dingell is a close Pelosi ally who won the seat of her husband, the late Rep. John DingellJohn DingellRaces heat up for House leadership posts Democrats flubbed opportunity to capitalize on postal delays COVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance MORE, in 2014. Lieu, elected to Congress that same year, would bring a strong Asian American voice to the table; he’s earned a national following by taking daily jabs at President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE on his favorite social media platform: Twitter. Cartwright, who ousted Rep. Tim Holden in a 2012 Democratic primary, serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

If one of the three DPCC co-chairs pulls ahead in endorsements, the others could fall back and seek reelection to their current leadership posts. But there are already a handful of rank-and-file lawmakers lining up to succeed them. Rep. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NegusePelosi names 9 impeachment managers House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump LIVE COVERAGE: Congress certifies Biden win after Pennsylvania, Arizona challenges fail MORE (D-Colo.), a CBC member and rising star of the freshman class, has been calling colleagues about running for one of the three DPCC co-chair jobs. Neguse and Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHouse Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics House Democrats push Biden's Pentagon pick on civilian control of military MORE (D-Texas) now serve as the two freshman liaisons to Pelosi’s leadership team; Escobar is running for Hispanic Caucus chair.

 

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair

Most Democrats expect Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker AOC v. Pelosi: Round 12? MORE (D-Ill.) to return for another term heading the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). After a rash of staff resignations last year over complaints about the campaign arm’s diversity problems, Bustos made a string of new hires prioritizing diversity and seems to have steadied the ship and quieted her critics.

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But neither she nor her team are tipping their hand as they turn their focus toward preserving their 232-198 majority this fall.

There are other variables too. If Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenRev. Barber says best way to undercut extremism is with honesty Biden requires international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to US Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE defeats Trump, it could set off a game of musical chairs that could have a ripple effect in House leadership races, Democratic sources said. For example, if Biden taps Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department MORE (D-Ill.) for a Cabinet role, Bustos, Kelly or another Illinois Democrat could be appointed to her Senate seat.   

Some sources pointed to Cardenas, a talented fundraiser, as someone who could step into the job of DCCC chair if Bustos passes on another term.

“There are a lot of wild cards,” said a Democratic aide. “Some people think [Cardenas] could be a natural pick at DCCC.”