“Consensus” was sought by Steny Hoyer. That might be challenging for the next Democratic leaders.
Steny H. Hoyer, the majority leader in the House, has been thinking a lot lately. He has recently been thinking about a major concept that he adopted twenty years ago when he initially won the Democratic caucus’ No. 2 spot.
The Maryland Democrat said in an interview on Tuesday, “I talked about the psychology of consensus, the psychology of waking up in the morning and thinking, “I’m going to be with the team,” knowing full well that you can’t be with the team all the time.
Twenty years later, Hoyer and Rep. James E. Clyburn, his longstanding ally, both said they would step down in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to leave the leadership of the chamber (D-S.C.).
Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been rightfully praised as a historic figure for smashing the glass ceiling in Congress and for enacting significant pieces of legislation during her two terms as House speaker.
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But the triumvirate’s ability to coordinate and reach an understanding was crucial to that accomplishment, particularly as the Democrats in Congress became more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation, location, and ideology.
Pelosi, 82, gained influence through the party’s liberal coastal power centers; she grew up in a political dynasty in Baltimore and spent her adult life involved in the burgeoning technological sectors of the West Coast, which today power Democratic financial engines. Clyburn, 82, grew up in the civil rights movement and rose to become the longest-serving leader in the Congressional Black Caucus, making him a moral fulcrum.
Hoyer, 83, has longstanding connections to more moderate groups in swing seats from the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions. He is the only straight White male to hold one of the top seven positions in Democratic leadership during the previous four years.
The moderates would make their concerns known to Hoyer if Pelosi tried to push a measure that the liberals in her caucus would support. Members of the CBC would phone Clyburn to vent if Pelosi offended them, as she did multiple times over the years while debating rule changes like term limits for committee chairs.
“We could talk to practically anyone in the caucus and make them feel that we understood them, that we were interested in what they had to say, and that we were willing to listen to them. And she, I, and Jim could all accomplish that. And I believe that the three of us covered the entire caucus, according to Hoyer.
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The Affordable Care Act, the revision of the criminal justice system’s laws in 2018, the passage of nearly $5 trillion in funding to fight the coronavirus over the past three years, and a broad party-line agenda last summer that included more than $300 billion to combat climate change are just a few of the significant accomplishments made possible by that unity.
About a month before the midterm elections, Hoyer and Clyburn spoke in private about their futures. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Rep. Katherine M. Clark (Mass. ), and Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.) each made the decision that it was time for the next generation of Democratic leaders to assume the helm, especially given that they anticipated the Republicans would reclaim the majority.
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We concurred that the moment was right for us. Hoyer spoke on the phone for 40 minutes as he got ready for a Thanksgiving weekend with family at his home in St. Mary’s County, southeast of Washington along the Potomac River. “I suppose if we’d been in the majority, we may have made another decision, but it wasn’t another time,” Hoyer said.
He estimated that there were roughly 100 geese on the water on a sunny day, which gave him peace of mind as he made the decision to live like a rank-and-file member again for at least the next two years.
If all three of the new trifecta win contests next week in which they are unopposed, Hoyer hopes they can match the balance of the outgoing big three. Aguilar, 43, will become the highest-ranking member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in more than 17 years, while Clark, 59, has roots in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Jeffries, 52, would make history as the first Black chairman of any of the four House and Senate caucuses.
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They are from the same three states that make up approximately a third of the Democratic caucus members: New York, Massachusetts, and California.
Hoyer said that starting out in the minority will make it simpler for them to pick up the necessary skills. “They have a really broad reach.” They will be creating those connections because their specific roles have been improved.
This new group of leaders differs significantly from the departing trio in that they have been working together for nearly four years in secret to advance in the Jeffries-Clark-Aguilar order.
Nearly 60 years ago, Pelosi and Hoyer first spoke to one another as inexperienced staffers working in a Senate office. Since their three-year internal leadership contest ended in October 2001 with a vote for the House minority whip (Pelosi 118, Hoyer 95), the two have been rivals within their own caucus. Her triumph indicated the caucus’ departure from its base in the manufacturing regions of the Midwest and toward the coasts and the professional class in outlying suburbs.
Democrats struck a practical match by elevating Hoyer to whip without any opposition after she was made minority leader a year later. When Democrats recaptured the majority in the 2006 midterm elections, Pelosi attempted to retaliate against Hoyer by supporting her steadfast buddy, the now-deceased John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), over Hoyer for majority leader, only to watch her adversary win by a margin of almost 65 votes.
Even her supporters in California approved of the balanced ticket. In a 2006 address in support of Hoyer, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said, “A wonderful leadership team, let’s maintain it in place.”
They both understood for years to come that she would never allow him to surpass her as No. 1, and he would never be surpassed as No. 2.
Hoyer recalled on Tuesday that his stunning victory in 2006 gave him a lasting sense of authority and added, “I had an independent base.” “The caucus, not anyone else, was responsible for electing me.”
Democrats in Congress have undergone significant change throughout their time in office. Just 12 women were in the caucus in 1987 when Pelosi won a special election, as she pointed out in her speech on November 17 announcing her retirement from leadership. There are more than 90 currently.
Her predictions state that women, people of color, or LGBTQ individuals will make up 75% of the 213 Democrats in the upcoming election.
But Hoyer has noticed other changes that surpass the increase in diversity.
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The Democrat, who is typically thought of as the make-nice man with open channels of communication to Republicans, responded, “No, I think the biggest shift in the institution is how hostile Republicans have gotten.
The Americans With Disabilities Act, which was co-sponsored by Hoyer and Rep. Steve Bartlett (R-Texas) and approved by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1990, was his greatest personal accomplishment.
When Republican speakers John A. Boehner and Paul D. Ryan struggled to rule amid a right-flank uprising, that radicalization of the GOP began. The biggest change, he claimed, was that.
When the hearings began after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Hoyer made a passionate address. Instead of extending an arm of amity, he denounced Republicans who supported the effort to annul the election.
Hoyer noted that these words had been “made before this Capitol was besieged” by extreme Republicans and claimed that all they would do was deepen the potentially dangerous tensions.
Hoyer will be remembered in history as the Democrat who held the positions of minority whip and No. 2 for the longest periods of time without ever rising to the top position.
He claimed that “during the previous six, eight years,” he had realized that he wasn’t likely to be given the top position. Would I have preferred to be the one speaking? Yes, of course. I doubt I could have performed any better than Nancy Pelosi did. Nobody could have, at least not in my opinion, he said.
Hoyer’s career has come full circle as he now caters to the younger generation after beginning as the prototypical young man in a hurry. When he was 27 years old, he won a state Senate seat. He then lost a statewide race for lieutenant governor in 1978. He then won a House special election in 1981, which put him on this course for the next more than 40 years.
In 1991, he ran for majority whip but failed because the more established Democrats thought he was overly ambitious.
He was appointed minority whip, behind Pelosi, 11 more years later. Clyburn would join the group a few years down the road. They believe that their work over the past two years, done with a slim majority that left just three or four votes to spare, is their most tactically successful work.
Even though it wasn’t always nice, they eventually succeeded in getting a sizable portion of the agenda approved.
We all put a lot of effort into it, according to Hoyer, and the psychology of consensus maintained.