Apparently, the way you move up the ranks within the Congressional Black Caucus, which is the closest thing Capitol Hill has to a peculiar institution, is to make yourself well-known for contentiousness and squabbling.
So it’s not a surprise that Cedric Richmond, Louisiana’s sole African-American congressman, has launched his bid to run the CBC by attacking the Democrats’ embattled minority leader Nancy Pelosi.
A prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus is raising alarms over Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s proposed leadership makeover, arguing that her proposed changes could dilute the group’s power.
The criticisms were outlined in a letter from Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) over the Thanksgiving break. It comes as Pelosi faces her first real leadership challenge in years on Wednesday when caucus members — many still fuming over Democrats’ poor showing on Election Day — vote on their leaders for the next Congress. Richmond is expected to run for CBC chairman in an election the same day.
“The reality is that, from the perspective of the CBC, some changes may be beneficial while others may have severe unintended consequences that could diminish our power as a caucus within the Democratic Caucus,” wrote Richmond, who is expected to run for CBC chairman in an election also being held Wednesday.
Though Pelosi is heavily favored to fend off Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) to remain Democratic leader, the letter represents at least a warning flare from a part of the caucus that’s been a stalwart supporter of hers. It’s unclear, however, whether other CBC members share Richmond’s concerns.
Richmond specifically takes issue with a proposal from Pelosi to make the assistant leader role, currently held by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a position filled by a member who has served fewer than three terms whenever Clyburn leaves the post.
“[T]he original memo proposed that the Assistant Leader position be filled by someone who has served fewer than five terms. Why was this reduced to three terms?” Richmond wrote. “We have a number of members who have been in Congress five or more terms, but have not been able to serve in leadership roles because of stagnation at the top of our leadership structure.”
Translation: Pelosi needs to guarantee Clyburn’s eventual replacement is a CBC member, or else she loses the bunch to Ryan and with it her leadership position.
Which probably results in a private assurance that’s what’s going to happen. Pelosi is favored to retain her leadership of Democrats in the House over Ryan, but it hasn’t been as much of a slam dunk as one would have thought.
Wednesday the CBC is going to choose its new leader and Richmond thinks that ought to be him.
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, will seek the chairmanship of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, in part to push for criminal justice overhaul, to protect voting rights and to increase economic opportunities in minority communities.
“He came to the decision over the Thanksgiving holiday,” Richmond Press Secretary Brandon Gassaway said Tuesday (Nov 29). “He discussed it with his family, and that’s when he decided to run.”
While Richmond began to seriously consider a run after Democrats suffered serious losses in the Nov. 8 election, it had been something on his mind for much of his last term, Gassaway said.
A vote by secret ballot among the caucus’ 45 members is expected to take place around midday Wednesday, coinciding with votes to choose the party’s overall leadership team for the first years of Donald Trump‘s presidency.
Clyburn supposedly is backing Richmond, as is Mississippi’s black congressman Bennie Thompson. Richmond’s chief rival is apparently New York congresswoman Yvette Clarke, whose current claim to fame is that she called Facebook racist for allowing its advertisers to target potential customers by ethnic affinity.