House Dems in chaos over No. 4 slot in leadership hierarchy; Rep. Ted Lieu suggests it should be him

As the House of Representatives readies itself for a new GOP majority, House Dems are playing a game of political musical chairs, trying to figure out who among them is now the Number 4 Democrat.

The No. 4 spot in the ranking order is presumed by many to belong to Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, who will be assuming the assistant leader spot when the House reconvenes next month under Republican control.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who, as the incoming vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus will be the highest-ranking Asian American in the next Congress, is apparently not pleased with the pecking order, suggesting to a reporter who asked about the hierarchy that he should be the new Number 4, according to The Hill.

“Here, see?” he said, showing the reporter a photo of a press conference earlier this month which featured four members of the new leadership team: Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine Clark (Mass.), Pete Aguilar (Calif.), and himself.

“Other than that, I have no idea,” Lieu snarked.

It’s a complicated question, made more confusing by the midterm elections, which put the Dems in the minority and forced the loss of a seat from their leadership roster.

Reports The Hill:

The vice chair has always been ranked just below the caucus chair, and because the caucus chair in the 118th Congress will be the No. 3 position, why wouldn’t the vice chair be No. 4?

The last time the Democrats were in the minority, the caucus chair seat was the No. 4 position, below minority leader, the Democratic whip and the assistant leader. But that hierarchy was altered following this year’s midterm elections, when the new caucus chair — Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.) — jumped up to the No. 3 spot.

The promotion was designed to keep intact the incoming triumvirate of new leaders — Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Aguilar — to replace the longstanding Democratic team of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Clyburn, who have led the party for almost two decades.

While Pelosi and Hoyer have stepped out of leadership altogether, Clyburn ran successfully to keep a spot within the party brass as assistant leader — a position first created by Pelosi the last time Democrats lost their House majority, in 2010.


With Clyburn’s unexpected decision to stay in a leadership position, Aguilar had to give up on his hopes of taking the assistant leader spot and, instead, had to settle for the caucus chair position. Rather than go up against Aguilar, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) withdrew his candidacy for the caucus chairmanship and instead looked to a new position at the head of the Democrats’ messaging arm.

Though there are no specific internal rules regarding the specific pecking order, “it’s been widely held that the rankings of each seat are reflected in the order of the closed-door elections that decide them,” The Hill noted.

But Clyburn wasn’t in D.C. when Jeffries, Clark, Aguilar, and Lieu were elected. His position as assistant leader was uncontested, arguably ousting Lieu from the fourth position — one which the media outlet says is “essentially meaningless” anyway.

“The duties and titles of neither the vice chair nor the assistant leader would change based upon their numerical ranking,” The Hill reported. “And given the personalities constituting the incoming leadership team, rank-and-file Democrats said they don’t anticipate any internal frictions.”

As one user on Twitter put it, “Every one of the old leadership are still in congress. watching this mess will be interesting.”


Melissa Fine


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