Feb 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Clyburn's exit sparks House Democratic leadership shake up

Reps. Pete Aguilar, Joe Neguse and Katherine Clark.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Joe Neguse and Minority Whip Katherine Clark. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Rep. James Clyburn's (D-S.C.) decision to step down as assistant House Democratic leader has set off a game of musical chairs for Democratic leadership roles.

Why it matters: The 83-year-old's exit presents what could be the last vacancy in a top Democratic leadership position in the coming years.

  • The top three Democratic leaders — 53-year-old Leader Hakeem Jeffries, 60-year-old Whip Katherine Clark and 44-year-old Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar — all assumed their roles just over a year ago.

Driving the news: Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) already announced his candidacy in a "dear colleague" letter on Thursday.

  • "I would be honored to serve as Assistant Democratic Leader — to build on [Clyburn's] distinguished legacy, and to continue my work supporting our Leader, Hakeem Jeffries," Neguse wrote.

What we're hearing: Neguse is currently unopposed. Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Axios she "can't imagine" she would contest the role, saying Neguse "will be a great assistant leader."

  • New Democrat Coalition Chair Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) said she hasn't decided whether to run for a leadership job, but is "very happy where I am" and will "get behind [Neguse] whatever he wants to run for."

Zoom in: If Neguse wins the assistant leader job, it would likely touch off yet another hotly contested leadership race for his DPCC chairmanship.

  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), one of three DPCC co-chairs, told Axios she would run for the role if it becomes vacant.
  • Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) is also seriously looking at a run and has been encouraged by colleagues to vie for the role, according to a senior House Democrat and another source familiar with the matter.
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