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Congressional Black Caucus chair tamps down talk of Democratic leadership fight

Rep. Cedric Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in an interview Friday that he's open...

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 8:19 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 8:19 PM

Rep. Cedric Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in an interview Friday that he's open to re-electing the current senior House Democratic leaders, tamping down talk of a battle for the top two positions if Democrats retake the House majority in next week's midterms.

Richmond's comments came after he wrote a letter this week calling for a CBC member to be in the top leadership spots of the caucus.

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"I'd like to reiterate that if there is any change in our top leadership positions, the Democratic members of the CBC endorse African-American representation in at least one of the top two positions of elected House Democratic Caucus Leadership," he wrote.

The letter raised questions about whether a CBC member would challenge Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the top two Democratic leaders in the House.

But Richmond told CNN that he meant there should be an African-American lawmaker in the top two spots -- only if there's a vacancy that arises. That could mean that if Democrats take the majority next week, the influential CBC could potentially get behind a Democratic leadership team led by Pelosi as speaker and Hoyer as House majority leader and in the No. 3 spot, Rep. James Clyburn, who is black.

"It could be the same three," Richmond told CNN. "I'm not ruling that out."

Asked if he believed any CBC member would challenge either Pelosi or Hoyer to the position, Richmond said: "I'm not hearing anything yet about a challenge to either."

On Thursday, Clyburn, who is the assistant Democratic leader, also threw cold water on talk of a challenge for the top, telling Politico:

"I do not expect there to be any change in the number one and number two spots," Clyburn said, referring to Pelosi and Hoyer. "I will pursue the number three spot which I held before."

Clyburn served as House majority whip from 2006 to 2010.

Asked if he supported Pelosi's bid to become speaker, Richmond said: "I've always been a Nancy supporter."

But he said he has more questions about Pelosi's recent pitch that she would be a "transitional" leader, saying she needs to spell out her future plans to the caucus.

"Now that she's introduced 'transitional,' what does that mean?" Richmond said.

Richmond's comments are the latest sign that Democrats are eager to avoid a messy succession if they do take the majority. While a number of Democratic candidates have said they would not support Pelosi for speaker, she is the heavy favorite to reclaim the gavel in part because there's no serious opposition to her. The only way a vacancy would arise would be if she fails to get the necessary 218 votes to become speaker on the floor -- and the chances of that occurring increase if Democrats win only a tiny majority on Tuesday.

Richmond said that it's time for an African-American member to be one of the top two leaders "after 233 years," and he defended the efforts by CBC members to help win the Democratic majority on Tuesday.

"If we're going to have a leadership change, then we need to have an African-American member in one of the top two spots," Richmond said.

Jeffries, others eye leadership role

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, another member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is exploring a bid for the top leadership ranks and has been meeting with colleagues to discuss his interest, according to a Democratic source.

The New York Democrat has not specifically stated which position he's eying.

Like Clyburn, his allies privately make the case he could also be the first African-American speaker and argue his dynamic style and rhetoric could make him a formidable attack dog against President Donald Trump.

Jeffries' interest has caused some tension in the CBC, as Richmond and others have been pushing for Clyburn to become speaker one day. In his letter Thursday, Richmond only praised the work of one CBC member by name: Clyburn.

Jeffries, 48, has only been in Congress for three terms, but he's quickly built a large profile for himself through the media and through his relationships across the caucus, including some Republicans both on the Hill and off, such as Jared Kushner while working on criminal justice reform.

A co-chairman of the House Democratic Policy & Communications Committee, which comes up with messaging for the caucus, Jeffries has already worked closely with the highest ranks of leadership. While he's viewed as progressive and part of the progressive caucus, he's also a pragmatist who doesn't espouse all views of his far left colleagues.

Some members in the Democratic caucus have also raised Rep. Karen Bass, another CBC member, as a potential speaker someday. Bass was formerly the speaker of the California state assembly and the first African-American woman in history to lead a state legislative chamber.

At the time she went toe-to-toe with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a celebrity-turned-politician. It's a fact her allies like to bring up given the current environment in Washington, where another celebrity sits in the executive chair.

So far, there are no clear signs that Bass is angling for the position anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Rep. Barbara Lee, who's also a part of the CBC, is running for Democratic caucus chair, the No. 4 position in the caucus.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 320292

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22299271
Hinds20782424
Harrison18455317
Rankin13933282
Jackson13740249
Madison10276225
Lee10068176
Jones8475167
Forrest7845153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6524150
Lamar636688
Lafayette6315121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4842133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4610148
Marshall4576105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc426173
Monroe4163136
Union415977
Neshoba4066180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
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Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3374111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314771
Adams308586
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292468
Prentiss284461
Leake272474
Marion271480
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
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Winston230382
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210759
Holmes190574
Stone188833
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135547
Greene131934
Lawrence131424
Montgomery128943
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126542
Carroll122330
Webster115132
Jefferson Davis108534
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79218
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549394

Reported Deaths: 11328
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810851571
Mobile42180832
Madison35733524
Tuscaloosa26186460
Shelby25638255
Montgomery25103615
Baldwin21921314
Lee16301176
Calhoun14725329
Morgan14650286
Etowah14192364
Marshall12465230
Houston10798289
Elmore10302214
Limestone10191157
St. Clair10166251
Cullman9975201
Lauderdale9621250
DeKalb8978190
Talladega8467184
Walker7351281
Autauga7244113
Jackson6993113
Blount6957139
Colbert6418140
Coffee5650128
Dale4931116
Russell455241
Chilton4476116
Franklin432082
Covington4283123
Tallapoosa4137155
Escambia402380
Chambers3731124
Dallas3609158
Clarke353361
Marion3264107
Pike314878
Lawrence3135100
Winston283672
Bibb268664
Geneva258782
Marengo250566
Pickens237062
Barbour234460
Hale227078
Butler225071
Fayette219763
Henry194844
Randolph187744
Cherokee187545
Monroe181041
Washington170639
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156157
Cleburne153744
Lamar147237
Lowndes142154
Wilcox126830
Bullock124642
Conecuh113830
Coosa112129
Perry108826
Sumter106032
Greene93734
Choctaw62125
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