Political News

Who Wants to Lead the House of Representatives?

Posted November 7, 2018 9:06 p.m. EST
Updated November 7, 2018 9:14 p.m. EST

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) takes a call from Barack Obama to congratulate her on the Democrats regaining the House majority, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 7, 2018. As Pelosi moves to line up the votes to resume her speakership of the House, she secured an unlikely endorsement from President Trump, who may relish the chance to spar with her over the next two years. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Tuesday’s elections swept Democrats to power in the House for the first time since 2010, but before Election Day, the leaders of both parties were under pressure.

Democrats have the opportunity to upend the three septuagenarians — Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny H. Hoyer and James E. Clyburn — who have led the party since 2007. But a formidable challenger has yet to emerge for any of them.

For Republicans, now in the minority, the retirement of Speaker Paul Ryan has created jostling among conservatives pressing for a younger or harder-line leadership.

Elections will most likely be held within the party caucuses before the end of the month.


Nancy Pelosi of California

Pelosi, the only female speaker in history, is confident that she will have the votes to reclaim the gavel.

On the campaign trail the last few weeks, Pelosi, 78, has extolled her fundraising ability and negotiation skills, even as a number of newly elected representatives and incumbents distanced themselves from her during the campaign.

It remains unclear, however, if any of her critics will challenge or vote against her. She is counting on the adage that you can’t beat someone with no one.

Steny Hoyer of Maryland

Pelosi’s longtime No. 2, Hoyer said Wednesday that he would run for majority leader, his old post in the last Democratic majority.

In a letter to colleagues announcing his bid, Hoyer, 79, promised “that younger and more diverse members must be made a real part of the decision-making process,” but he said the Democratic caucus needed experienced leaders to counter the Trump administration.

Pelosi, who backed a rival during Hoyer’s 2006 run for leader, could also try to cut Hoyer loose to accommodate rebellious younger members seeking a top perch.

James E. Clyburn of South Carolina

Clyburn, 78, plans to reclaim his old post of majority whip, the No. 3 spot in the leadership.

He has the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members have said they want one of their own in the top leadership positions. And he said he expected the current hierarchy to remain intact. That was a step back from previous suggestions that he could be an interim speaker if Pelosi failed to win the required 218 votes on the House floor.

Hakeem Jeffries of New York

Many Democrats believe Jeffries, the 48-year-old telegenic New Yorker, will be a centerpiece of their party’s future leadership in the House. The question is when.

Jeffries had kept his cards close to the vest, but in recent days he signaled to other Democrats that he was likely to jump into the race for Democratic caucus chairman, possibly announcing his candidacy as soon as Thursday. That position could set him up to take a shot at a top leadership position in a post-Pelosi world.

He is widely viewed as one of the party’s best communicators and has tried to position himself, somewhat improbably, as an ally of the caucus’ more moderate wing.

Diana DeGette of Colorado

A chief deputy whip for more than a decade, DeGette said on Wednesday that she would challenge Clyburn for the No. 3 whip position.

DeGette, 61, would be the second woman to serve as whip. She has served on a number of committees, including Energy and Commerce.

An aide to DeGette said she planned to emphasize her experience as a vote counter and the need to have more women in leadership roles to reflect the record-breaking number of women who will be in the House.

Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico

Luján, 46, was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the victorious 2018 campaign, and on Wednesday he said he would run to be assistant Democratic leader, the No. 4 position. Traditionally, a leadership post would be the reward for steering the party back to the majority.

Luján, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Native American Caucus, has also served as a chief deputy whip in the leadership since 2013.

Rep. Denny Heck of Washington said on Wednesday that he would run to succeed Luján as head of the campaign arm.

Cheri Bustos of Illinois

The only current member of elected Democratic leadership from the Midwest, Bustos, 57, announced her intent to run for assistant Democratic leader last month.

Bustos, a former newspaper reporter, was the first woman to be elected in her district and has been involved in crafting the House’s farm and transportation bills.


Kevin McCarthy of California

After Ryan announced his retirement, the current majority leader, McCarthy, was anointed his successor. But a Republican will not be speaker next year, and his future in the leadership is less certain in the minority.

McCarthy announced Wednesday that he would run for minority leader. A previous run for speaker ended badly in 2015, when he stumbled over public remarks and lost support among hard-line conservatives.

Since then, McCarthy, 53, has aligned himself closely with Trump.

Steve Scalise of Louisiana

Scalise, currently the majority whip, has said he does not intend to challenge McCarthy for the highest Republican leadership role in the House: He said in a Fox News interview in April that he had “never run against Kevin and wouldn’t run against Kevin.”

But if McCarthy does not clinch the position, Scalise, 53, is widely seen as the most likely candidate to ascend to the role, where he would push the party rightward.

He has a sentimental edge, having overcome near-fatal injuries from the shooting on an Alexandria, Virginia, baseball field last year.

Jim Jordan of Ohio

Jordan, a founder of the hard-line Freedom Caucus who became enmeshed in a sexual assault scandal from his time as a college wrestling coach, reiterated his intent Wednesday to challenge McCarthy for the top slot.

Jordan, 54, has the backing of many Freedom Caucus members and outside conservative groups, but is unlikely to overtake McCarthy or Scalise. His aggressive tactics — most notably mounting an effort to impeach Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general — have frequently divided the party. But in a close race, he could become a kingmaker.

Liz Cheney of Wyoming

Cheney announced on Wednesday that she was running for the fourth-highest position in the House, chairwoman of the Republican conference.

Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, would replace Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has held the position since 2013, and would become the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House.

In a letter to her Republican colleagues, Cheney, 52, said she would overhaul the party’s communication and messaging efforts.