Nancy Pelosi may have thought she dodged a bullet when she negotiated an end to what was shaping up as a nasty battle between Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn over who would get to sweep up what’s left of the Democratic Party once Nancy’s done with it.
The Congressional Black Caucus has decided to withhold its approval for the House Democratic leadership team, denying Speaker Nancy Pelosi full support of the 42-member organization as she campaigns to remain leader.
After a nearly two hour long meeting on Monday night, chairwoman Barbara Lee of California said the group only will endorse caucus member James Clyburn of South Carolina for a leadership position. The causus first wants to know what his role will be in the Democratic leadership before backing the full slate.
“We fully support our current Whip, Mr. Clyburn, for the number three position and we are currently reserving judgment on the entire package until we see what the actual portfolio entails, in terms of responsibilities,” Lee said.
In short, the CBC called Pelosi’s bluff. Now, I don’t think that Clyburn could have won the fight for the number two spot and, apparently, neither did Pelosi. The entire reason she invented a new sham position for him was to salve the bruises his ego would suffer from the loss. If Clyburn is going to be an ungrateful churl and demand by fiat, through his CBC allies, what he could not get openly and honestly, she’ll be in a very bad position. Either she will have to relent, which will damage her even further politically at a time when she can ill afford to show weakness or she’ll have to bring down the hammer. I can’t imagine she’ll want an open fight with the black members of her caucus, especially when they compose the most faithful remaining members of the Democratic coalition, so the hammer option is probably out.
From a “big picture” point of view, I don’t understand why Clyburn and the CBC is making an issue out of this. Nothing good will come of it for the party and by now he’s gotten about all the perks he can possibly suck out of the taxpayers. More importantly, their insistence that Pelosi give him a place of honor on a sinking ship isn’t going to endear them to the bulk of Democratic voters who would rather not see their party destroyed. I suppose that ego knows little reason, though.