Hoyer Upbeat Despite Leadership
By Emily Haile
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006
WASHINGTON - A buoyant Rep. Steny Hoyer told a roomful of reporters
Tuesday that he remains confident in his bid for House majority
leader, despite the endorsement his opponent got from the
House's likely next speaker.
In a move that defied the predictions of congressional
insiders, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., endorsed her
close ally, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., over Hoyer for the No. 2
House leadership post in a letter released Sunday.
Last week, analysts agreed Pelosi would want to avoid an
intraparty bloodbath and that Hoyer was an obvious choice for
her chief deputy given their success in unifying the caucus when
their party was in the minority.
Pelosi's endorsement changes the dynamic of the race, said
Jonathan Allen, a House leadership reporter for Congressional
The question now is how much power will Pelosi exert to
privately push her colleagues to support Murtha, he said, though
he declined to say whether that was happening.
Hoyer maintains that he has the support of the majority of
the caucus and holds no ill will toward Pelosi, he said.
"Nancy Pelosi and I are friends. Nancy Pelosi is a very loyal
person," he said, citing her close relationship with Murtha.
Pelosi did have the courtesy to alert Hoyer that she would
support Murtha, said Hoyer, adding he wasn't surprised.
"After the election, we'll move on as we moved on after the
whip's race," said Hoyer.
Hoyer lost a bitter battle for minority leader to Pelosi in
2002 before he was unanimously elected whip in 2003.
But the tensions between the two have been exaggerated, he
"The reports of dissension are much greater than the reality
of the dissension," Hoyer said.
More than 30 moderate Democrats endorsed Hoyer's bid Tuesday,
citing his loyalty to the party, especially to those members in
Two-thirds of the Blue Dog, or conservative, Democrats
support Hoyer, according to his office.
"While being in the majority brings many opportunities, it
will also create additional challenges, particularly for
moderate Democrats," the Blue Dogs and moderates said in an
This looks good for Maryland's longest-serving congressman,
as moderate Democrats tend to be Murtha's crowd on most other
issues besides the war, said Matthew Crenson, a political
science professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Several Democratic heavyweights including Henry A. Waxman,
D-Calif., John Dingell, D-Mich., and Barney Frank, D-Mass., also
endorsed Hoyer last week, citing his success in uniting the
caucus and his raising more than $8 million on behalf of
But the likely swing voters in Thursday's election could well
be the 41 incoming freshman representatives, said Allen.
With his own district secure - Hoyer was elected to a 14th
term with more than 82 percent of the vote - he spent much of
the election season on the road campaigning for those freshman.
He stumped, recruited, and raised money in 33 states and
participated in more than 315 events this cycle, according to
the letter of endorsement from senior House members.
In her own letter of endorsement, circulated by Murtha,
Pelosi saluted Murtha for his anti-war stance, crediting it with
changing the national debate and making Iraq a central issue of
"Your strong voice for national security, the war on terror
and Iraq provides genuine leadership for our party, and I count
on you to continue to lead on these vital issues," Pelosi
But others have been more critical of the veteran
Liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics
in Washington has chastised Pelosi for her endorsement, calling
Murtha "one of the most unethical members in Congress" for his
coziness with contractors.
In a statement released Tuesday, Murtha dismissed the
allegations as unfounded. He also took a jab at Hoyer.
"The Pelosi-Murtha position on the war is the reason the
Democrats are in the majority today," said Murtha. "Congressman
Hoyer's position has been to stay the course with President Bush
from the very beginning and, like Senator John McCain, he
advocates sending in more troops."
But Hoyer isn't taking his gloves off, describing Murtha's
statement as simply inaccurate and pointing out that he and
Murtha have often shared the same view on Iraq, citing letters
written to President Bush describing failed policy.
Hoyer's confidence and cool-headedness in the seemingly hot
race is a good sign that he has a lock on the votes, Crenson
A shrewd lawmaker, he knows that should he become majority
leader, he will have to reach out to Murtha and others to unify
the party in the coming weeks.
Hoyer said that his teamwork with Pelosi over the last four
years has led to "the most successful Democratic caucus in the
last half century" and that the two will continue to work
together in the future because of shared goals and values.
"We know how to do it, and we know that we need to continue to
do it and we will," he said.
Still, Pelosi's involvement in Murtha's campaign in the days
before Thursday's election by secret ballot will remain a key
factor in the outcome, Allen said. "We probably won't know until all the votes are counted."
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