No Congressmen in Biden Cabinet?
For days, there has been talk that President-Elect Biden has adopted an informal “no Senators” rule for his cabinet, reasoning that the Democrats can’t afford to risk losing a single seat in that body. Now, it seems that a similar rule is emerging for the House as well.
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 nab any vacated seats, 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.
But another House insider said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is urging Democratic congressional reps to stay put, and told the Biden transition team not to poach its members because of the party’s slim majority following the Nov. 3 elections.
The sensitive topics of jumping ship to work for Biden amid the loss of House seats came up at a House Democratic caucus meeting last week.
“It’s not helpful to talk about that,” a member of Democratic leadership reportedly said on the call regarding House Dems wanting to relinquish their seats and work for Biden.
“The feeling is: don’t make rash decisions about going to the administration without first considering consequences to the caucus,” a Democratic insider familiar with the call said.
The report is in the New York Post, which has serious credibility problems, and is thinly sourced. Still, it’s quite plausible.
It’s worth noting that the Speaker’s office vehemently denies it:
Pelosi’s office denied that the speaker is pressuring House Democrats from resigning to work for Biden.
“This is completely false. The Speaker wants the full contribution of House Democrats to the Biden-Harris mandate and to the future represented in the Administration,” said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.
And the report continues with countervailing information:
Last week, The Post revealed that Biden was eyeing a bipartisan list of 30 members of Congress known for working across the aisle for key administration posts.
The Biden transition team is looking at 20 lawmakers serving in the House of Representatives and 10 in the Senate who received the US Chamber of Commerce’s Jefferson-Hamilton 2020 award for bipartisanship.
An insider said that the Biden team is looking more closely at the House — where Democrats are in the majority — rather than the Senate, the fate of which is up for grabs depending on two special elections in Georgia in January.
We’ll see soon enough, I expect, who Biden wants for the cabinet. It’s only natural, though, that someone who spent so long in the Senate would be drawn to people from the Hill—and especially the type worthy of “Jefferson-Hamilton” recognition.
Still, party control is a real concern and one could understand the motivation of leadership. The decks are already stacked against Democrats because of gerrymandering in the House (likely to get worse next cycle given Republican control of most state legislatures) and the skew provided by the Senate. Add in the natural tendency of the party that controls the White House to lose seats in the midterm election, it’s a huge risk.
I don’t recall this being a publicly-discussed consideration in previous changes of administration. Congress has been a source of quite a few cabinet appointees over the years. But, even in “safe” states, it can backfire. See Jeff Sessions’ longshot replacement by Doug Jones in the Alabama special election. (For that matter, recall Scott Brown’s shocking win in Massachusetts after Teddy Kennedy’s death.)
Regardless, this is yet another instance where the Schoolboy Civics understanding of American politics collides with reality. The Federal Papers sold a story of institutional prerogatives, local interests, and institutional design checking the tendency toward factions. But the biggest factions of all are the two major political parties—and pretty much every other interest or concern is subservient to their fight for power.