By inventing a new post of “assistant leader” for James Clyburn of South Carolina, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has headed off a leadership fight that threatened the unity of her caucus just as it became drastically smaller:
Trying to resolve a dispute among her top lieutenants, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Saturday that she will offer Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) the newly created position of “assistant leader,” calling the No. 3 leadership position [sic].
In a letter to her Democratic colleagues Saturday afternoon, Pelosi did not mention her internal rival, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), but her endorsement of Clyburn served to be an indirect backing of Hoyer to continue on as her chief deputy next year in the No. 2 post of minority whip.
The only way for everyone to move down one rung on the ladder was to create a new rung. While this seemed intuitive from the outside, apparently the Speaker waited until both candidates rounded up some votes before she made her move:
Pelosi’s statement and her letter was viewed by party insiders to mean that Hoyer, an ally of many of the party’s centrists and few remaining conservatives, had collected far more votes than had Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in congressional history.
Two dozen (unnamed in this article) Democrats have questioned Speaker Pelosi’s decision to seek the minority leader spot and no one has announced a challenge to her candidacy.