WASHINGTON – Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen can add another leadership position to his resume.
Van Hollen will serve as the assistant to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a role she expanded Tuesday to include incumbent retention.
“We need to make sure that our new members who were just elected cement their relationships with the voters back home, and so we’re going to be working with them to make sure that they have the tools and support necessary to maximize their ability to do a good job for their constituents,” Van Hollen said.
The assistant to the speaker attends all House leadership discussions and focuses on issues or policies the speaker assigns to him, according to Pelosi’s spokesman Brendan Daly.
“I am looking forward to having a policy formation development role within the Democratic leadership and looking forward to working on our legislative strategy and working with the Obama administration to follow through on the agenda that (President-elect Barack) Obama talked about during the campaign,” Van Hollen said.
For the past Congress, the position has been held by Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., who is leaving to become vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus and who is in line to become Obama’s U.S. Trade Representative, but Van Hollen will be the first assistant to work with incumbents to ensure they are re-elected.
“It’s a very big job,” Daly said. “She has great confidence in him, and he’s really done an excellent job.”
Pelosi said Van Hollen was the best choice for the position because of his work with the DCCC in the past two House election cycles.
“Following the historic second House wave election and the election of President-elect Barack Obama, there is no better choice for assistant to the speaker and DCCC chairman than Chris Van Hollen,” Pelosi said in a statement. “(He) is a first-rate thinker and political strategist who knows the policy, politics and people that are essential to House leadership successfully developing and executing our agenda for change with the caucus and the incoming Obama administration.”
Van Hollen led the DCCC in a Nov. 4 victory that allowed House Democrats to pick up more than 20 seats, a feat no party has accomplished in more than 50 years.
“These are new members who ran good and strong campaigns,” Van Hollen said. “And they’ve already hit the ground running, and we’re looking forward to working with them to make sure they have all the support necessary.”
Maryland Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, became one of these new members when he narrowly defeated state Sen. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, for the state’s 1st District seat.
Working with the freshmen congressmen, Van Hollen said he hopes Congress will immediately start creating policies when it reconvenes.
“My No. 1 priority is to make sure that the Congress gets to work right away in implementing the agenda for change that the American people are looking for,” he said, “so that’s my No. 1 priority is to try and work with our colleagues to get moving right away.”