WASHINGTON – Two Maryland congressmen were named Wednesday to high-ranking positions in the 112th Congress: Rep. Steny Hoyer was elected House minority whip and Rep. Chris Van Hollen was named the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.
Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, was first elected to the House in 1981 and was named House majority leader in 2006; House Democrats had to re-elect leaders for the next Congress because they lost the majority in the Nov. 2 Republican landslide.
Democrats lost 64 seats to the Republicans, including in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, where Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil was replaced by GOP state Sen. Andy Harris.
Hoyer had received some support to run for House minority leader against current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., however Hoyer announced he was running for the No. 2 spot last Monday. Hoyer was elected by voice vote almost two hours after the day’s voting was tentatively scheduled to be over. Pelosi, was elected 150 to 43 on a secret ballot against North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, a former Washington Redskins quarterback.
Shuler, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Caucus who acknowledged publically that he never had the votes to knock off Pelosi, said the elections were still not simply an exercise in foregone conclusions.
“Look what time it is,” Shuler said. “There was a lot of unrest in the room.”
Hoyer faced resistance in the race for minority whip last week from Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the current majority whip and No. 3 in the Democratic leadership. But Clyburn, the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus with an elected leadership role, was ultimately satisfied by a spot as “assistant leader,” a newly minted position that will keep him as the third in command with House Democrats.
Hoyer pledged to continue efforts to spur the economy and help Americans, despite Democrats’ weakened role in the 2011-2012 Congress.
“This was a difficult election to say the least,” Hoyer said. “We are going to participate as a minority in this Congress, but we will be ever vigilant to keep Republicans, as they did to us, to their rhetoric on fiscal balance and ongoing jobs. That is what the American people have asked us to do; that’s what we think we have been doing.”
Van Hollen, D-Kensington, oversaw the official campaign effort of the House Democrats as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in both the 2008 and 2010 elections. He announced Nov. 5 he was stepping down from the position. When the 112th Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, he will take over as the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, which oversees the federal budget process.
“We all know that’s going to be the central front in the great national debate we will have about the best way to kick our economy into higher gear,” Van Hollen said. “I’m looking forward to that great debate.”
As the ranking member, Van Hollen will lead the Democratic minority on the committee. Van Hollen was considered a shoo-in after the current chairman, South Carolina Rep. John Spratt, lost re-election and backed Van Hollen for the spot. The endorsement came the day after the committee’s current second-highest ranking member, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Penn., publically backed Van Hollen.
Van Hollen echoed the sentiments of the rest of the Democratic leadership in emphasizing the need to continue to nurse the economy back to health.
“We made substantial progress over the last 20 months but we all acknowledge that people are still hurting,” Van Hollen said. “We have a long way to go.”