Political News

Tracking House leadership races: Here's who wants to lead the next Congress

Posted November 9, 2018 6:45 p.m. EST

— A leadership shakeup is coming to the House of Representatives after Democrats won enough seats to take back the lower chamber of Congress from Republicans in this year's midterms.

Democrats won't officially take control of the House until a new session of Congress starts in January, but the race to decide who will lead House Democrats and Republicans is already underway.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has launched her bid become the next speaker of the House, the highest-ranking position in the chamber. So far, she faces no announced challengers.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, currently the No. 2 House Republican, is vying to become the top GOP leader in the new Congress when Republicans will be in the minority and the current House Speaker Paul Ryan departs.

McCarthy is viewed as the heavy favorite to become the minority leader. But he is facing a challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan, a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Beyond the top of the ticket, other Democrats and Republicans -- some of them veteran lawmakers and some of them potential rising stars in their parties -- are vying for positions further down the leadership hierarchy.

House Republicans will hold leadership elections on Wednesday, November 14, while Democrats are set to select their nominee for House speaker in leadership elections the week after Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, November 28. A final vote to determine who will be the next speaker won't happen until January on the House floor.

Here's an overview of the top leadership positions and who is vying for what role:

The Democratic leadership contest


Nancy Pelosi wants to become House speaker -- again.

The longtime House Democratic leader, who served as the first and so far only female House speaker from 2007 to 2011, isn't facing any challenge at the moment.

Pelosi has expressed confidence that she will be elected to the position. But there is a small but vocal contingent of House Democrats who have called for new leadership and several have pledged to vote against her for speaker.

In January, Pelosi will need to shore up support from most of the House Democratic caucus to win the final vote on the House floor, which traditionally has a threshold of 218 votes -- an absolute majority of all members of the House -- but could be won with fewer.

The House speaker wields considerable power in the lower chamber, including the ability to shape the agenda on the House floor by determining which bills come up for debate and a vote and which do not.

In an indication of how powerful the House speaker is in the hierarchy of Washington politics, whoever holds the title is second in the line of presidential succession after the vice president.


Rep. Steny Hoyer, who currently holds the position of No. 2 House Democrat as minority whip, has launched a bid to become the majority leader in the next Congress.

Like Pelosi, Hoyer is a veteran of House Democratic Leadership. The Maryland Democrat has served as second-highest ranking Democrat after Pelosi for 16 years and in lower-level Democratic leadership positions even longer.

The majority leader is responsible for managing the schedule that determines when legislation will be considered on the House floor and planning the legislative schedule on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The majority leader also works with committee chairs on policy and to bring bills that have advanced out of committee -- and have the support of leadership and the votes to pass -- to the House floor.


Rep. James Clyburn, who currently holds the No. 3 Democratic leadership spot of assistant Democratic leader, is running for majority whip.

Clyburn, a lawmaker from South Carolina, is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a key voting bloc among House Democrats, and is the highest-ranking African-American member in the House.

Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, who is currently a member of the Democratic whip team serving as a chief deputy whip, is challenging Clyburn for the position.

The majority whip acts as a key vote counter for party leadership and is tasked with figuring out how much support a particular bill will have if it comes to the floor for a vote. The whip also works to mobilize votes in support of leadership priorities.


Several Democrats are running for assistant Democratic leader, a position in the Democratic leadership hierarchy created after Democrats lost the House to Republicans in the 2010 midterms.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the chair of the House Democratic campaign arm, is running for the post and so is Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois had been vying for the position as well, but dropped her bid after Luján's entry into the race; she began running instead to lead the campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, and Rep. Barbara Lee of California, both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are competing for the spot of chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Rep. Linda Sánchez of California had also been running for the spot, but she dropped her bid, citing an "unexpected family matter" and later disclosed that her husband had been indicted in Connecticut.

The position is currently held by Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, but he won't be around in the next Congress after he was defeated in a major upset by progressive primary challenger and political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Republican leadership contest


Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current No. 2 Republican and House majority leader, and Rep. Jim Jordan, the co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, have both announced bids to become minority leader in the next Congress after outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan leaves.

McCarthy is viewed as the heavy favorite to succeed Ryan.

The position of minority leader is the highest in the House for the party out of power. The minority leader is the most visible face of the minority party in the lower chamber and works to advance party's objectives, despite being shut out of control of the House -- with the ultimate goal of taking back the chamber.


Rep. Steve Scalise, the current No. 3-ranked House Republican, is running for the position of minority whip. Scalise is widely respected among House Republicans and gained a higher national profile after he was shot last year in an attack on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice.

The minority whip acts as a vote counter and also works to mobilize support and votes for or against legislation in line with the goals of party leadership.


Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is running for the role of House Republican Conference chair.

Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is currently running for the position unopposed since Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has held the position in the House majority, is not running for re-election for the same spot in the next Congress. She plans to run for a ranking member position on the Energy and Commerce Committee instead.

The GOP conference chair plays an important role in executing party communications and media strategy.