by Countable | 11.11.16
Congress returns next week for a "lame duck” session, so-called because current members, not those elected on Tuesday, will be there to work and vote, even though some have already been voted out of office. But in preparation for the next Congress, which will be seated in early January, members will hold leadership elections to decide who will lead their respective parties in the House, Senate and on the campaign trail for the next two years.
Leadership in Congress is much more important than the fact that these members represent their party — congressional leaders also decide what gets voted on and when. On the campaign side, the chairs of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee lead their respective parties and run elections.
In Congress, there are eight leaders in the House and in the Senate, four belonging to each party, who are led by the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the House Minority Leader and the Speaker of the House. They, along with three deputies apiece, will be elected by current members of Congress from their parties on Tuesday (so now is the time to contact your reps about these jobs). Those elections will have to be ratified by the new Congress in January, however.
There aren’t likely to be too many big changes to leadership in 2016, despite a decidedly change-seeking electorate. But Democrats could elevate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other progressives this year to help heal the party after a divisive election.
Here are five big jobs that could change hands either this week, or in January.
Will Republicans keep Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on as Speaker? He’ll need the support of a majority of the House (that’s 218 members) in January to stay on.
Ryan angered a lot of Republican members when he announced that he would no longer campaign for Donald Trump, despite having endorsed him after a few months of foot-dragging earlier this year. And some threatened to oust him from the speakership, after just two years. But the far-right Freedom Caucus who had threatened to call for Ryan’s head earlier this year, said Thursday that they’d rather focus on helping President-Elect Donald Trump get things done than start a big fight with Ryan as their first act in the new Congress.
So, Ryan, is probably safe.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee just after the party’s convention this summer, amid backlash over leaked emails that showed DNC staff trashing Sanders. She was replaced by interim chairwoman Donna Brazile, who is alleged to have leaked debate questions to the Hillary Clinton campaign during the primary. Brazile has said she won’t run for a full term as chairwoman.
That leaves the job open and there are some interesting names considering running for chair. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a progressive who has the support of Sanders, has thrown his hat in the ring. He’s also been backed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is likely to be the Senate Minority Leader next year (more on that below), which could carry a lot of weight. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who briefly ran for president this year, and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean (D-VT), are also interested in the job.
Unlike congressional leaders, the chair of the DNC and RNC are elected by party members, including some members of Congress, as well as the chairs of state parties and other party officials.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus could stay on for another four years as the party’s leader, but there’s also a rumor that he’s being considered for White House Chief of Staff in a Trump administration. For now, Priebus isn’t saying anything about the rumors and, so far, no Republicans are moving to jump the gun and indicate that they want the job.
The current minority leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is retiring at the end of this year and has endorsed Schumer, who is currently number three in leadership, to take his place. So far, no one has moved against Schumer for the job and it’s very likely that he’ll take over for Reid.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is rumored to be considering running for minority whip, the number two job in Senate Democratic leadership (basically, the Democrat’s vote-counter who makes sure they have the votes for favored legislation). But that would pit her against the current whip, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Sanders could be a wildcard as well. HIs spokesman told the Nation that he is considering running for one of the top Democratic jobs in the Senate, but has ruled out running against Schumer for leader. That could mean that he runs for whip or for another, lower-level leadership job. Schumer’s current job, Democratic Conference Vice Chairman/Policy Committee Chairman, is still open. And, if Murray runs for whip, her job as Conference Secretary will be as well.
For now, none of these positions are contested.
Senate Majority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Senate Majority Whip: John Cornyn (R-TX)
Republican Conference Chairman: John Thune (R-SD)
Republican Policy Chairman: John Barrasso (R-WY)
House Majority Leader: Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
House Majority Whip: Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Republican Conference Chair: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
House Minority Leader: Nancy Pelosis (D-CA)
House Minority Whip: Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Assistant Democratic Leader: Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
Democratic Caucus Chair: Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
— Sarah Mimms
Image via sanders.senate.gov
Written by Countable
Bernie Sanders needs to have a vital role in our senate to help heal this country. ❤️
I hope Bernie will get a leadership role
Sanders is the DNC's only way forward now that they've paid the price for screwing him out of the presidency.
Putting Bernie in a higher position will help the Democratic Party and make the people trust the Democratic Party a bit more.
Keith Ellison for DNC chair. Sanders wants him and I agree with him on this choice.
Bernie needs placed in position as a ranking leading Senator. He can carry our progressive agenda forward to help win back the millennial electorate.
The establishment Democrats are effectively dead, as pointed out on Tuesday. Bernie and supporters are the new future for the party. I support Paul Ryan as well, seeing as he's a reasonable conservative.
Ugh. Every time I hear sanders speak I'm reminded how stupid he sounds. And I just can't fathom how he became so popular. He won't stop talking about the wage gap. The FREAKIN' wage gap! It's so easy to debunk. I can't believe anyone would take him seriously.
Sanders should be the DNC's chair. What better way to make sure we don't have a screw up like last time.
Keith Ellison is a great man. However, I support Howard Dean to lead the Democratic National Committee as Chair again. I have greatest respect for Keith Ellison, but a sitting politician MUST NEVER serve as DNC Chair. When this happens, they cannot serve both the DNC and their constituents well--- they are too diluted. And, it places the Chair in a potential ethical conflict in which they may favor one candidate over another. Debbie Wasserman Schultz proved this and it was a disaster for Bernie and the Democratic Party. I will have to disagree with Bernie on this one.
Best of reps of both parties. I fully support.
Bernie sanders was voted most popular senator in the United States with the highest approval rating in the country polls show he would have easily defeated trump in the general election
Sanders is a loon. The "progressives" want to turn this country into Europe instead of advocating for personal responsibility. Instead we are raising a bunch of cry-baby millennials that think the country owes them a favor. Perhaps they need to read the Constitution.
I support Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House. He is a reasonable man who can unify from his side of the isle.
Bernie Sanders is all talk and no action. He should be voted out!
Sanders, sure. Ryan, goodbye!
Senator Sanders is a visionary and deserves a position in democratic leadership
Yes to Bernie, out with Paul Ryan
I'd like to see both Ryan and McConnell replaced. Neither has done much for the party or country.