Is this a sign of more unrest and divisiveness inside the Democratic Party or just some practical defensive maneuvers on display? The latest rumor-mill fodder on the Hill this week is that both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are quietly putting out some cautionary warnings to the members of their caucus. Don’t go sniffing around and looking for a spot in Joe Biden’s cabinet or anywhere else in his administration. Of course, this might appear at first glance as some sort of revolt against the presumptive next president, but in reality, it’s probably not. The New York Post has the latest gossip on the subject.
Confronted with a shrunken majority, House leaders are discouraging fellow Democrats from taking jobs with the incoming Biden administration — out of concern that Republicans could take back the chamber in the 2022 mid-term elections, sources told The Post on Sunday.
Insiders variously accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) of urging Dems to stay put to preserve their fragile majority.
“Nancy is telling House members, ‘Now is not the time to leave,’” a Democratic Party official who’s been briefed by Democratic congressional reps said.
Another “House insider” told the Post that Hoyer is saying the same thing. Only the Majority Leader allegedly went one step further, sending word directly to Joe Biden not to “poach” any of their members for his administration.
These claims are all coming from anonymous sources who wouldn’t go on the record, so take that as you will. But it’s not at all uncommon for some members who have an ax to grind to go to the press on background to voice their displeasure with the party leadership if they don’t want to be publicly exposed for doing so. You can picture that sort of thing being likely at the moment. Getting a cabinet position really ramps up a congressional member’s name recognition and pads their resume, particularly if they have national political ambitions themselves. And the transitional period following a presidential election is the time when everyone starts jockeying for position.
For what it’s worth, Pelosi’s spokesman responded by saying that these stories are “completely false.” But what would you expect them to say? It’s a touchy subject.
It’s equally understandable if both Pelosi and Hoyer are telling everyone to “stay put.” The current AP map of the House shows that with 422 races called so far, the Democrats have lost six seats while the Republicans have picked up 7. There are at least five other races where absentee ballots are still being counted with Republican candidates holding onto a lead. Those include two seats each in California in New York. The latter category includes NY-22, where Claudia Tenney is closing in on possibly defeating Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi. Tenney’s lead of more than 22,000 votes has been slashed to a little more than 10,000 as the absentee ballots have been counted. There are roughly 20,000 left to count, so she’s not out of the woods yet, but it would be another major score for the GOP if she pulls this off.
This leads to the same situation in the House that we previously discussed as playing out in the Senate. Many in Pelosi’s socialist base would like to see either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders (if not both) wind up with cabinet seats. But they’re both from states with Republican governors who would be in a position to at least temporarily appoint their successors, potentially driving them even further away from a majority in the upper chamber.
If I had to place a bet, I’d wager that Chuck Schumer has already had similar conversations with members of his caucus and probably Joe Biden as well. If not, he probably shouldn’t be the minority leader.