Updated Dec 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Clyburn elected assistant Dem leader after challenger drops out

Rep. Jim Clyburn at a hearing in June.

Rep. Jim Clyburn at a hearing in June. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) was elected assistant minority leader on Thursday, the No. 4 position in House Democratic leadership, after Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) dropped his unexpected challenge.

Why it matters: Cicilline's surprise announcement on Wednesday that he was taking on Clyburn came amid grumbling from some younger members about the 82-year-old Democratic whip's decision to stay in leadership.

  • Cicilline, the chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, argued for LGBTQ+ representation in leadership, citing a recent shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs.

What we're hearing: Cicilline, in a speech to the caucus on Thursday, laid out what he would have run on before endorsing Clyburn to applause from his colleagues, according to members in the room.

  • Cicilline also said he got to sit down with Democratic leadership and was assured there will be LGBTQ+ representation in leadership – though it's not yet clear what form that will take.

What they're saying: "I'm pleased and honored to continue serving," Clyburn told reporters. Asked about Cicilline's challenge, he said: "I don't think anything of it. He told the caucus his issues, raising the issue of the LGBTQ+ community."

  • Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said Cicilline's speech was "an incredible speech" that spurred him to reach out to Cicilline to collaborate on "whatever he wants to work on" related to LGBTQ+ issues.

Yes, but: "I think everyone has tremendous respect for Mr. Clyburn," said Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), "And there was a feeling in the room that Mr. Clyburn has led our country in civil rights and we want him to continue in leadership ... the writing was on the wall."

  • Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) said people were "sympathetic" to Cicilline's case for LGBTQ+ representation in leadership, but "at the same time, were probably taken a little bit back with him just floating his name."
  • Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who gave one of the nominating speeches for Clyburn, said there was "unanimous support" for him.

The bottom line: "I think it's, again, part of the Democratic party being in array," Kuster said.

The backdrop: Clyburn’s decision to remain in leadership came despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) both stepping down from their roles.

  • Clyburn's decision prompted a reshuffling of lower-down leadership positions and the creation of a new position for 38-year-old Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), who had been expected to step into the No. 4 role.
  • Neguse was instead elected to the newly created Democratic Policy and Communications Committee chairmanship by acclamation on Thursday. He ran unopposed.
  • Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) were elected the DPCC co-chairs from a field of seven candidates.

The intrigue: Underwood is the first Black woman elected to House leadership since New York Rep. Shirley Chisolm became secretary of the Democratic Caucus.

Editor's note: This story was updated with new reporting and details throughout.

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