Politics

House Democrats’ New Elected Leadership Team Is More Progressive and Diverse

On average, new leadership team is also younger in terms of age and length of service

The incoming House Democratic leadership team poses for a group photo in the Rayburn Room in the U.S. Capitol on Friday. Front row, from left: Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. Back row, from left: Joe Neguse, D-Colo., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., David Cicilline, D-R.I., Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Katie Hill, D-Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The newly elected House Democratic leadership team for the 116th Congress will be more progressive, diverse and younger in terms of both age and length of service compared to the current one. 

That should generally please Democrats who called for changes in their leadership team, despite the top three long-reigning leaders remaining in charge. 

House Democrats will have 14 elected leaders for the next Congress. The only position that remains unsettled is that of speaker. California’s Nancy Pelosi, who has served as the top Democratic leader since 2003, is the party’s nominee to get the gavel, but she currently lacks the votes she’ll need to win a Jan. 3 floor vote.

ICYMI: Pelosi Holds Victorious Briefing After Speakership Nod

The other 13 Democratic leaders the caucus selected during two days of intraparty elections last week were:

Although it will have two representatives to leadership, the freshman class is also requesting monthly meetings with the speaker, majority leader and majority whip on its legislative priorities, according to a letter 46 members-elect sent to Democratic leadership Monday.

Exactly half (seven) of the elected Democratic leadership team for the 116th Congress is part of the current 11-member elected leadership team. Besides gaining the position of speaker after taking back the chamber, Democrats added the position of DPCC chair to oversee the co-chairs as a landing spot for Cicilline and elected two freshman representatives instead of one.

Five of the 14 elected Democratic leaders next year will be women, one more than in the current Congress.

There will be one more black member serving in elected leadership next year with Neguse joining. With Jeffries moving up to the No. 5 post and Clyburn remaining in the No. 3 role, it will be the first time that two African-American members have served in the top tier of leadership at the same time. 

Luján’s ascension to the No. 4 post will make him the highest-ranking Latino ever in the House, according to a Congressional Hispanic Caucus statement. (However, California Rep. Tony Coelho, a Portuguese-American, was a CHC member and served as majority whip, the No. 3 slot, from 1987 to 1989.)

Luján will be the only CHC member serving in leadership next year. The group had three leaders this year with Luján, who chaired the DCCC, and two Californians — Linda T. Sánchez as caucus vice chair and Tony Cárdenas as caucus representative for members serving five terms or less. 

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus will still have one member in leadership with Lieu joining as Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa ends her term as the freshman representative. Hanabusa is not returning to Congress next year after an unsuccessful run for governor.

The absence of a woman of color on the new elected leadership team, and frustrations over California Rep. Barbara Lee’s close loss to Jeffries in the caucus chair race led Pelosi to appoint Lee as a co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. She will join current Steering co-chairs Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Eric Swalwell of California atop the panel that makes committee assignments. Although the Steering co-chairs are appointed, they are still considered part of the leadership team and participate in its weekly meetings.

Comparison with GOP

House Republicans, meanwhile, will have an elected leadership team that is half of the size of the Democrats’ in the 116th Congress. But of those seven elected leaders only one, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, is a woman and none are members of color. 

Republicans do have a younger leadership team than Democrats. The GOP leaders have an average age of 52 and have served an average of three full terms in Congress. 

The new Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have an average age of 56 and have served an average of five full terms in Congress. Comparatively, the outgoing Democratic leadership team, when they started the 115th Congress, had an average age of 59 and had served an average of 6.5 terms.

Geographically, there’s more diversity in House Democratic leadership with five members from the West, four from the Northeast, three from the South and two from the Midwest. That’s one more Midwesterner and one less from both the South and Northeast than the outgoing leadership team.

Republicans do not have any leaders from the Northeast but have three from the South and two each from the West and Midwest. 

Ideologically more progressive

Ideologically, the Democratic leadership team for the 116th Congress will be more progressive than the current one.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus will have nine members in the leadership ranks: Jeffries, Clark, Cicilline, Lieu, Dingell, Cartwright, Raskin, Hill and Neguse. 

As the largest ideological caucus, the CPC had felt underrepresented this Congress with only three of its members, Jeffries, Cicilline and Sánchez, in elected leadership. 

The New Democrat Coalition, meanwhile, will only have two members in leadership next year: Bustos and Hill. The coalition has three members — Bustos, Cárdenas and Hanabusa — on the outgoing leadership team.

The Blue Dog Coalition remains without official representation in leadership, but the Problem Solvers Caucus gains a seat with Dingell joining. 

Correction 2:19 p.m. | There are five women among the 14 Democratic leadership team positions and nine members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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