So much for the Congressional Black Caucus’ mini-rebellion over the make-work position created for James Clyburn as a sop to get him out of a losing challenge for the whip position in the next session of Congress. On Monday, they huffed about the lack of authority for Clyburn in taking a renovated second-tier position in the game of musical chairs created by Nancy Pelosi’s insistence on clinging bitterly to her party leadership position. By Tuesday evening, after Pelosi held a closed-door meeting with the group, the position had a little more definition and a lot less opposition:
The new leadership job created for Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) got strong reviews from some critical members of the Congressional Black Caucus after they met Tuesday evening to discuss the post with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The exact responsibilities of the post of “assistant leader” — not to mention its staffing, funding and office allocations — remain murky, but two high-ranking CBC members said they are satisfied that the position is suitable for Clyburn, who is the highest-ranking African American in Congress.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said it will include duties as a liaison to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to the House Appropriations Committee, where Clyburn served before entering House leadership. Clyburn is currently the majority whip, but when the new post was announced by Pelosi, he abandoned a bid to fight Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for the minority whip position when Republicans take control of the House in January.
That’s it? Clyburn gets to act as liaison to the DCCC and Appropriations? The DCCC has been until now run by Chris Van Hollen, one of Pelosi’s close lieutenants in a position that is itself the fifth-ranking leadership position in the caucus. Van Hollen will likely be replaced, but apparently not by Clyburn, who won’t even have that much authority over its actions. He’ll just liaise on Pelosi’s behalf.
The relationship with Appropriations is even more threadbare than his liaison to the DCCC. Appropriations is a full House committee, not a Democratic caucus, and Clyburn will be at best just another member (if he even gets assigned to the committee). In the next session of Congress, Democrats won’t control any committees; Republicans will set the agenda in the House, especially on spending. What kind of power will Clyburn wield over its direction, given that he will only be liaising for Pelosi to the Democratic minority?
It’s a make-work position, nothing more. It’s a bid by Pelosi to keep the CBC from challenging her grip on power by ensuring a soft spot for Clyburn. It’s so obvious that Cleaver felt the need to deny it in his statement:
Cleaver emphasized his belief that Clyburn should not be viewed as the black representative in the leadership — stressing that the CBC will continue to speak for the African American community.
“This is not a black position,” he said.
It’s not a black position per se, but it’s clearly a payoff to the CBC.