House Democrats on Wednesday will launch the delicate affair of choosing their leadership team in the next Congress, a routine exercise that’s taken on outsized significance following the party’s battering at the polls two weeks ago. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Business group calls for national mask mandate, COVID-19 relief Ted Cruz slams fellow senator as a ‘complete ass’ over wearing mask MORE (D-Calif.) and her top lieutenants — Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTop Democrat calls Trump’s Afghan drawdown ‘the right policy decision’ as others warn of ‘mistake’ Hoyer calls for changing House rules to shield whistleblowers This week: Clock ticks on coronavirus, government funding deals MORE (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Dear fellow Black voters: Thank you Michael Moore implores Biden to reject ‘cowardly center,’ embrace progressive values during first term MORE (D-S.C.) — are all running uncontested, setting the stage for the same power lineup to return for another term after 14 years together at the helm.

That grip on authority comes even despite some rank-and-file lobbying for a leadership facelift following a dismal election cycle when Democrats were forecasting large gains in the lower chamber, only to see their majority shrink instead.

The fifth-ranking House Democrat, Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHouse launches new COVID-19 testing program Democrats’ post-election ‘family meeting’ descends into chaos Centrist Democrats talk leadership changes after negative election results MORE (N.Y.), is also facing no challenger, guaranteeing a second term in that post for the four-term Brooklyn native. A quartet of Democrats are running uncontested to become the four equal co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC): Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellCedric Richmond’s next move: ‘Sky’s the limit’ if Biden wins Pelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won’t seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. Lieu Mark Cuban asks voters to ‘reconsider’ donating to Georgia run-off elections Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising Federal judge orders USPS to rush delivery of mail ballots as deadlines near MORE (Calif.), Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election The Hill’s Campaign Newsletter: Election Day – Part 4 Cartwright fends off House challenge from ex-Trump official in Pennsylvania MORE (Pa.) and Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NegusePocan won’t seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Races heat up for House leadership posts Trump backs bill to establish suffragist monument in DC MORE (Colo.).

Much less certain are a series of contests for a number of mid-ranking leadership positions — races that carry an unusual weight this year, since Pelosi has vowed to relinquish the gavel after the coming term. Her exodus is certain to spark a mad scramble to fill the void at the very top, and those just below would be best positioned to do so. 

With that in mind, the races for the lower-tiered leadership posts have taken on a special urgency this week, when Democrats will vote virtually as a public health precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Assistant Speaker 

Pelosi created the Assistant Speaker position two years ago to reward the campaign chief, Rep. Ben Ray LujanBen Ray LujanThis week: Clock ticks on coronavirus, government funding deals Two lawmakers announce bids to succeed Bustos at DCCC Republican Mark Ronchetti to face Rep. Ben Ray Luján in New Mexico Senate race MORE (N.M.), for helping to flip the House to Democratic control. But the new post is now here to stay.

Two ambitious rising stars in the party — Reps. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election This week: Clock ticks on coronavirus, government funding deals Two lawmakers announce bids to succeed Bustos at DCCC MORE (Mass.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThis week: Clock ticks on coronavirus, government funding deals Two lawmakers announce bids to succeed Bustos at DCCC Civil Rights group, watchdog formally request Twitter suspend Trump’s account over disinformation MORE (R.I.) — are vying to move up the leadership ladder and succeed Lujan, who has proven that the Assistant Speaker post can lead to higher office. Lujan is heading to the Senate next year.

Clark, 57, the current Democratic Caucus vice chair, is a strong fundraiser who has been cultivating relationships with two critical voting blocs in the increasingly diverse caucus: women and minorities.

Her endorsements include former CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.); Rep. Grace MengGrace MengDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election House passes resolution condemning anti-Asian discrimination relating to coronavirus Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race MORE (N.Y.), a top Democratic National Committee official; Rep. Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Texas social workers drop nondiscrimination rules for LGBTQ, disabilities Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants MORE (Texas), who was an impeachment manager; and Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanProgressive Democrats call on Pompeo to condemn Israeli demolition of Beduin village House launches new COVID-19 testing program Top contender for Biden Defense chief would be historic pick MORE (Wis.), who is a co-chair of both the Progressive Caucus and Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

In touting Pocan’s support, Clark is taking direct aim at Cicilline, who as head of the DPCC is the only openly gay member on Pelosi’s leadership team. However, Cicilline, 59, won the endorsement of both the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBT Caucus, which said the former Providence mayor “understands personally the damage that Donald Trump has done – especially to young LGBTQ Americans – through his words and deeds.”   

Some Democrats who aren’t taking sides in the race said it appeared Clark had a better whip operation and a strong case that another woman should serve at the top of the leadership team alongside Pelosi.

“The caucus is virtually half women so it’s tougher to say, ‘Nancy Pelosi, man, man, man, plus male head of the DCCC, and a male head of the caucus,” said one neutral House Democrat.

“There will be a lot of people who will want to make sure we have women at the top.”

Vice Chair

With Rep. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior Secretary | Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry | Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior secretary OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump takes major step toward Alaska wildlife refuge drilling opposed by Biden | Grijalva backs Haaland for Interior Secretary | Obama alumni considered top picks for Biden Energy secretary MORE (N.M.) dropping out so she can be considered for Interior secretary, the race for Democratic Caucus vice chair now pits Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Biden’s gain is Democratic baseball’s loss with Cedric Richmond On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline MORE (Calif.) against Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Overnight Health Care: Schumer, Pelosi want Heroes Act as ‘starting point’ in new COVID-19 relief talks | Labs warn of possible delays in test results amid surge in demand | Federal government partners with pharmacies for coronavirus vaccine distribution Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 MORE (Ill.) 

For at least the past decade, there has been an Hispanic member of the Democratic leadership team: Then-Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTop Latino group calls for Padilla as Harris’s Senate replacement Pressure grows on California governor to name Harris replacement Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide MORE (Calif.) had served as both caucus vice chair and chairman, while Lujan was Assistant Speaker and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair. Aguilar, 41, a past whip for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), is looking to continue that tradition.

Kelly, 64, has been making the case that the key members of Pelosi’s leadership team should include a woman of color. In the top seven jobs, there currently are no women of color, and Kelly could make history as the first Black woman elected to leadership.

Both candidates are touting a broad array of support in the caucus. Aguilar, a centrist, is being backed by both the CHC and the pro-business New Democrat Coalition, where Aguilar serves as whip. Among his supporters are two Black Caucus members, Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.), a close Biden ally, and Don McEachin (Va.); and progressive Reps. Katie Porter (Calif.), Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Twitter users urge MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki to donate his beat-up necktie to Smithsonian Democrats call for IRS to review tax-exempt status of NRA MORE (Calif.) Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal Democrats set to hold out for big police reform MORE (Mich.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for ‘Will on the Hill…or Won’t They?’ Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary MORE (Vt.).

This is Aguilar’s second attempt at the vice chair post; the former mayor of Redlands, Calif., was defeated two years ago by Clark and has been working to shore up support ever since.

Kelly, a former state lawmaker, has secured support from a majority of her fellow CBC members, who constitute a huge voting bloc in the caucus, a source close to Kelly said. She rolled out a list of endorsements Tuesday night, including a trio of leading progressives, Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a ‘mistake’ Progressive Democrats call on Pompeo to condemn Israeli demolition of Beduin village Progressive House Democrats to host health care strategy session MORE (D-Wash.), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaBickering Democrats return with divisions Reestablishing American prosperity by investing in the ‘Badger Belt’ House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education MORE (D-Calif.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarThousands rally in DC to protest election results, show support for Trump Biden could lose Georgia Senate races all by himself Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era MORE (D-Minn.); as well as a pair of leaders of the New Dems, Rep. Ann KusterAnn McLane KusterPelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief MORE (D-N.H.) and Terri SewellTerrycina (Terri) Andrea SewellCentury of the Woman: The State of Women and Voting Rights Female lawmakers, officials call for more women at all levels of government to improve equity The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association – Country reacts to debate night of mudslinging MORE (D-Ala.).

DCCC chair

Before the election, the big question was whether Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosColorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by UAE – Vaccine breakthrough spurs markets; McConnell warns Trump on Afghanistan Tony Cárdenas casts himself as man to lead DCCC through fire MORE (Ill.) would seek a second term leading the DCCC, the party’s campaign arm. But the devastating election results — nearly a dozen vulnerable Democratic incumbents have lost reelection so far — answered that question for her.

Bustos said she would step aside, creating a late unexpected opening in a critical leadership post. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), who ran for the campaign job two years ago, quickly jumped in the race, followed by Rep. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), who abandoned his uphill bid for Assistant Speaker.

The election for DCCC chair has been postponed until the week after Thanksgiving to give Maloney and Cárdenas more time to campaign and lock down votes.

Both men are prolific fundraisers. Like Bustos, Maloney, 54, has touted his ability to win reelection in a conservative-leaning district that backed President TrumpDonald John Trump46 percent of voters say Trump should concede immediately: poll Michigan county reverses course, votes unanimously to certify election results GOP senator: Trump shouldn’t fire top cybersecurity official MORE in 2016 — something he believes can help him defend vulnerable Democratic frontline members in what certainly will be an extremely difficult midterm election cycle for the party. He’s also talked about his unique background: He’s a married gay man who has an interracial family, and was the first openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress from New York.

Cárdenas, 57, has pointed to his six years leading BOLD PAC, the Hispanic Caucus’s super PAC that raised tens of millions of dollars for the party and helped boost the number of Hispanic members of Congress from 25 to 40. Colleagues see Cárdenas, a former Los Angeles City councilman and state lawmaker, as someone who could help Democrats make up lost ground with tens of thousands of Hispanic voters who backed Trump in places like the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border and Miami-Dade County in south Florida.

Remote voting

All of the leadership votes will be cast by way of a new app allowing lawmakers to record their ballots both remotely, amid the pandemic, and covertly, to ensure anonymity.

The caucus tested the novel app on Tuesday during a caucus call, when lawmakers were asked to choose the greatest musician in history from a list of four: Selena, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and U2’s Bono. Franklin, Jeffries reported, won with more than 50-percent of the vote. 

“So the caucus provided R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the great Queen of Soul,” Jeffries quipped afterwards.

Votes for several contested committee-leader seats have also been pushed to the week of Nov. 30. 

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