Congressional Black Caucus Withholding Support From Pelosi

Lack of support from a key constituency may pose a threat to Nancy Pellosi's effort to stay on as leader of Democrats in the House of Representatives.

It may amount to nothing when tomorrow’s vote rolls around, but Nancy Pelosi’s bid to stay on as leader of the Democratic Caucus in the House has lost the support of a key constituency:

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.


Clyburn had decided to run against Rep. Steny Hoyer for the position of minority whip in the upcoming Congress, but was offered the role of assistant leader as it became clear he would not prevail in his campaign. Pelosi created the post in the House leadership team especially for Clyburn, to acknowledge the important role African-Americans play in the party.

Ed Morrissey gets it about right in terms of what’s going on here:

In other words, the CBC called Pelosi’s bluff.  They don’t want a spot on the leadership team just to find out it’s a figurehead position.  When working as Majority Whip, Clyburn had actual authority and leverage.  The new “assistant leader” position sounds as useful as the Vice President of the United States (or at least its current occupant, rather than his two predecessors), except that Clyburn would still be two heartbeats away from the top spot.

The comes at the same time that CNN releases a poll showing Democrats almost evenly divided on the question of whether or not Pelosi should stay on as leader:

Forty-five percent of Democrats questioned in the survey say they would prefer Pelosi to serve as House minority leader, with 47 percent saying they would prefer another Democratic member in the House.

It really does seem like Pelosi thought that she could get away with giving Clyburn a title without any real authority and everything would be okay. However, I’m not sure what other option there would be if the goal was to avoid a leadership battle between him and Hoyer that Hoyer would probably win, which would probably anger the CBC even more. As Minority Whip, Hoyer would be doing essentially what Clyburn’s job used to be as Majority Whip, there are no other leadership spots available. Creating a new position outt of thin air strikes me as tokenism, though, and apparently that’s how the CBC feels about it as well.

It’s hard to tell how this will play out. As Ed notes, the obvious scenario would be for Hoyer to promise the Whip spot to Clyburn and make a run against Pelosi, presumably with the backing of the CBC. Of course, Pelosi could try the same thing. In other words, it could be a messy fight. So, get the popcorn.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. floyd says:

    CBC’s very existence is the result of fuzzy and convoluted reasoning.
    It deserves no recognition , let alone deference.

  2. tateofpa says:

    Why does the CBC need to wait and see what in it for Clyburn? They should just vote on it and then see what in it, that is how the dems handled things when they were in control of the house like HC, “We have to pass it to see what is in it.” At the time of passing HC it was fine to pass something they have not read that effected the whole nation, but when it comes to their goodies they want to see it. Let face it, it a created position that should not be.

  3. André Kenji says:

    Clyburn should be Majority Leader. He could help the remaining Blue Dogs in the South, energizing the Black Vote. It would be more difficult to paint him as out of touch, besides that, he is a Southerner, and he is more articulated than Pelosi. I can see him dozens of times in the television, I don´t remember any gaffe from him.

    It´s a pretty easy deal for Democrats.

  4. sam says:

    Kind of OT, but Dave Weigel’s take on Heath Shuler’s challenge to Pelosi is very amusing:

    [Shuler:] I played in the NFL, and [when] you lost significantly, you were replaced. And I had that conversation directly with [Pelosi]. I told her that.

    Shuler was, famously, a first round draft pick who proved to be an enormous bust with the Washington Redskins. But as long as we’re going through sports metaphors, if you’re a Pelosi defender, isn’t the argument that you had a quarterback who threw nothing but completed passes, but to receivers who sat down in the field and started complaining about how the other team was being mean?