Races heat up for House leadership posts

The Big Three in the House Democratic Caucus — Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July House to consider anti-Asian hate crimes bill, protections for pregnant workers this month Top Democrat: Bill to boost Capitol security likely to advance this month 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.”


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 CicillineRepublicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Washington keeps close eye as Apple antitrust fight goes to court Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube execs to testify at Senate hearing on algorithms | Five big players to watch in Big Tech's antitrust fight MORE (D-R.I.) and Tony CardenasAntonio (Tony) CardenasMORE (D-Calif.) have already thrown their hats in the ring; Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkDemocratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan Child care advocates seek to lock down billion in new federal funding Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief 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.


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 JeffriesOn The Money: Breaking down Biden's .8T American Families Plan | Powell voices confidence in Fed's handle on inflation | Wall Street basks in 'Biden boom' Democratic leaders push to boost congressional staff pay Troy Carter wins race to fill Cedric Richmond's Louisiana House seat 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 AguilarTSA chief cites 'substantial increase' in firearms at airports Democrats seek to keep spotlight on Capitol siege Hispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting MORE (D-Calif.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyHHS expands Medicaid postpartum coverage for Illinois mothers up to a year after giving birth Democrats spar over COVID-19 vaccine strategy Lawmakers emphasize prioritizing patients' needs in health care policy MORE (D-Ill.) and Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water | Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions | Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections 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 DavidsIs nonpartisan effectiveness still possible? Biden to meet with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure When infrastructure fails 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 DingellNurses union lobbies Congress on health care bills during National Nurses Week OSHA sends draft emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 to OMB review Why the US needs a successful federal green bank MORE (D-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Lawmakers praise Biden for expected recognition of Armenian Genocide Overnight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales MORE (D-Calif.) and Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightGarland emphasizes national security, civil rights in budget hearing House Democrats call for paid legal representation in immigration court Lawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off MORE (D-Pa.) — are all vying to become head of the Democrats’ policy and messaging operation.


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 TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report 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) NeguseOvernight Health Care: US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries | Biden speaks with Prime Minister Modi as COVID-19 surges in India House Democrats call on Biden to add Medicare-related provisions to economic plan A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US 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 EscobarFive things to watch in Biden's first joint address to Congress HuffPost reporter: DCCC will help Dems fend off progressive challengers to 'keep them happy' Democrat: Ex-Trump aide Miller should be jailed for human rights violations 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 BustosDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Democrat Cheri Bustos to retire from Congress GOP campaign chief confident his party will win back House 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.


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 BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain 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 DuckworthSu's track record make her an excellent pick for Labor Department post Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill Senate panel advances Biden's Postal Service nominees 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.”