Schiff passes on Dem leadership bid as Pelosi’s future stays murky

Adam Schiff has decided not to seek a top House Democratic leadership post in the next Congress and is instead turning his focus to a potential Senate run, according to multiple people familiar with his decision.

The California Democrat has privately weighed his future in recent months, meeting with Democratic colleagues to gauge support for a potential House leadership bid. Schiff had mulled a bid for the caucus’ No. 1 role — likely to be minority leader, as Republicans are just one seat away from flipping the House after last Tuesday’s election — though he had not officially jumped into the race.

One of the party’s top fundraisers, Schiff honed his brand as an anti-Donald Trump crusader as Intelligence Committee chair and a manager of the former president's first impeachment. Now he's instead looking toward a Senate campaign in 2024, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) expected to not seek another term. One potential wrinkle for Schiff there: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has committed to naming a Black woman to Feinstein's Senate seat if she chooses to retire before her term is over.

Privately, several Democrats acknowledged it was unlikely Schiff could make up ground to threaten the current frontrunner for the caucus' top post, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). While Jeffries has steadily built up support, a huge question continues to hang over him — and the entire caucus: Whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi will decide to step down as party leader after 20 years.

Pelosi is widely expected to announce her decision this week, as soon as control of the House is officially called for Republicans.

Schiff’s future in the House will look different in at least one major way next year: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has vowed to block him from serving as the intelligence panel's top Democrat. Schiff has faced withering GOP criticism for his handling of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Hill Dems’ hottest leadership ticket: House No. 6

While most of Washington focuses on the future of House Democrats’ upper leadership rungs, their most competitive race so far actually sits at No. 6.

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top two lieutenants stay mum about their future plans, the battle to serve as vice chair of the House Democratic caucus next year is bursting into public view. Four contenders are actively jostling for what’s widely seen as a stepping stone to a more senior position in their party.

“It's like becoming the third vice president of the rotary club,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said of the interest in the lower-ranking position. “You know you're going to be president one day.”

The four vice chair hopefuls so far are Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). Between them, nearly every corner of the caucus is represented: the Congressional Black Caucus, progressives, the New Democrat Coalition and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Most of the quartet have laid the groundwork for months, if not years, to snag a public-facing position that assists in messaging and managing the whims of a hugely diverse caucus. And all of them have stepped up their outreach to fellow Democrats in recent weeks, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides.

With months to go until a leadership election that likely won’t take place until after Thanksgiving, most of those Democrats said it’s nearly impossible to name a front-runner.

The focus on the No. 6 position isn’t entirely unexpected, as the vice chairmanship is one of the few positions with a known vacancy. The post’s current occupant, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), is planning to run for a higher position within leadership if and when there are vacancies next year. (Its previous occupant, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, is also expected to run for a higher perch.)

“The top three is very messy. It's just that it's not formalized because no one actually knows,” Lieu said, when asked about the state of leadership races, both higher-ranking and more under-the-radar.

Rep. Ted Lieu's (D-Calif.), pitch to colleagues has centered around his work on the caucus' messaging arm and his involvement with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Lieu’s pitch to colleagues has centered around his work on the caucus' messaging arm, known as the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and his involvement with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, where he is the whip. A prolific fundraiser, he served in a high-profile role as a manager for Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial and is a vocal critic of the former president on social media.

“I'm getting very strong support from the ethnic caucuses, from California. That's half the caucus already,” Lieu said in an interview.

The Air Force veteran is vying against Dingell, another co-chair of House Democrats’ messaging arm who also won that caucus-wide position after the 2018 midterms.

Dingell — first elected to fill the seat of her late husband, the late House Dean Rep. John Dingell — is a critical ally of the current leadership slate and is particularly active on trade, the auto industry and prescription drugs. She’s also used her position to try to steer her party, whether it was assessing Trump’s chances in 2016 or this year's debacle over the president’s Covid funding request.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), is a critical ally of the current leadership slate and is particularly active on trade, the auto industry and prescription drugs.

“I’m one of the few people who’s not afraid to speak up,” Dingell said, describing her pitch for the vice chairmanship. If elected, she said one of her priorities would be working to engage more members who now sit "in the middle of the caucus."

"We need to find a way to get everybody in the caucus a feel for being relevant," she said.

Dean, meanwhile, is the most junior member in the race. She too rose to prominence after Pelosi tapped her as an impeachment manager and helped argue the House’s second, post-Jan. 6 case against Trump — a role with emotional weight, since she was part of the so-called "gallery group" barricaded in the chamber when rioters breached the Capitol.

The former Pennsylvania state legislator argued that far more has happened in her four years in office than the typical second-term member: “These two Congresses have been so jam-packed, dynamic, incredibly important that I didn't think there would be any reason why I would have to wait in some sort of line.”

Representing a suburban Philadelphia district, Dean stressed the importance of her swing state in a potential vice chairmanship. But what qualifies her the most, she said, is being the youngest of seven children: “I know how to navigate a complicated family, which is what the caucus is.”

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), rose to prominence after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped her as an impeachment manager and helped argue the House’s second, post-Jan. 6 case against Trump.

The most recent entrant is Beatty, who's led the Congressional Black Caucus for nearly two years. The Ohioan, who fended off a Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger in 2020, has pointedly sought to bridge ideological divides within the Black caucus, which includes some of the party's most senior members and its most progressive.

That included high-stakes negotiations on legislation such as last week’s pro-policing bills, as well as Biden’s massive infrastructure law last summer — on both occasions, Beatty's involvement helped end weeks of infighting within the caucus.

“I have a great track record of being supportive to those I work with, but also being representative of the greater population,” Beatty said, adding that she has not yet begun formally whipping votes for her leadership bid.

The field for vice chair isn’t necessarily set. Several Democrats predicted that other candidates could jump in after the Nov. 8 election — or that one or more of the candidates could decide to bow out and seek a different position after the dust settles from other higher-ranking races.

The current chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), is term-limited in his position, and is expected to join the leadership shuffle if there are vacancies above, creating another opening for his job. So far, only one Democrat has publicly indicated he's eyeing that position: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.).

Besides Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar, two other Democrats have been making calls about potential openings in the top three leadership positions: Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). The continued uncertainty at the top of Democrats’ leadership chain, though, has kept most of that jockeying quiet.

While Pelosi had committed to departing her position after this term, she has said nothing lately on the subject, deflecting that she is focused on the midterms. And her top two deputies, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) have not ruled out another leadership run.

Several other Democrats are looking at lower-level caucus-wide races, but have not yet decided which ones. Those include Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

Even the four lawmakers currently seeking the vice chair position have been careful not to let their campaigns get in the way of what they call the more important one: Keeping the House GOP from seizing the majority.

“I think everyone should stay singularly focused on making sure we protect the majority,” said Cicilline, who formerly served in House leadership. “We’re going to have lots of time to jockey for positions.”

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Cheney joins Dems on Jan. 6 probe, defying McCarthy threat

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen GOP Rep. Liz Cheney to join the Democrat-led investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, a rare cross-aisle elevation of one of Donald Trump's most prominent conservative critics.

The select committee on the insurrection will be led by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who had previously crafted a bipartisan plan to establish an outside commission to lead the probe into the Jan. 6 violence. After Senate Republicans blocked the investigation, Pelosi and her Democrats established their own panel, which won just two Republicans on the floor on Wednesday.

Cheney, one of only two GOP votes for the select panel, has already seen her leadership credentials revoked after she publicly blamed Trump for inciting violence at the Capitol. Now, she could face more repercussions for accepting Pelosi’s appointment, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy privately warning some GOP members that they could lose their committee assignments if they serve on the panel at Pelosi’s request, according to multiple Republican sources.

McCarthy said Thursday he is "not making any threats" about committee placement but added that he knows of no cases where a Republican “would get their assignments from the speaker."

“I was shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi,” he said of Cheney, adding she might be closer to Pelosi “than us.”

Cheney was unfazed following a meeting in Pelosi's office with the other select panel members. She signaled she had not talked with McCarthy or been told she would lose her committee assignment.

"It’s very clear to me, as I’ve said, my oath and my duty is above partisanship and I expect Leader McCarthy to have the same view,” she said.

Thompson declined to say how deeply his panel would parse Trump's role in the siege until the "parameters" of the investigation are set, though he's left the door open to seeking testimony from the former president, as well as McCarthy. Democrats have indicated that they will also examine the security shortfalls that were exposed by scores of protesters mobbing the Capitol that day. The panel's first hearing, not yet scheduled, will be with members of the Capitol Police, who would "testify about their experiences" defending the complex on Jan. 6.

But many lawmakers in both parties believe that intense scrutiny of Trump is inevitable as the panel digs into the root causes of the violence — and Democrats say Cheney's presence is a signal of how serious they plan to get.

"We need to figure out who organized the violence on Jan. 6. How did they organize it, and why did they organize it?" said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), outlining the aims of the investigation.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) indicated existing investigations on Jan. 6 would continue but added that "there needs to be one committee whose focus is solely on this matter and compiling the comprehensive and authoritative report."

Many of Pelosi’s eight picks to the panel, which she announced Thursday, have experience investigating Trump during his presidency. Raskin led Democrats during Trump's second impeachment trial in response to the Jan. 6 attacks. Schiff served as lead impeachment manager when Democrats impeached Trump for the first time in 2019. And House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), also on the select panel, is a former impeachment manager too.

The additional select panel picks were Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), a member of Pelosi’s leadership team, and a pair of Democrats with national security backgrounds: Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Elaine Luria of Virginia.

But the most notable name on Pelosi’s committee list is Cheney, who accepted a spot from the speaker by phone Thursday morning, according to a person familiar with the call. Many Democrats privately had hoped Pelosi would appoint the conservative Trump antagonist, in part to help mitigate the partisan rancor that's almost certain to result as the committee's investigation moves ahead.

"We are very honored and proud she has agreed to serve on the committee," Pelosi said at a press conference alongside her other Democratic picks. Cheney did not attend the press conference.

Several Republican lawmakers declined to weigh in on the Cheney pick, with many of them saying they were waiting for McCarthy to reveal his own plans and others saying they are generally wary of their party's fraught internal dynamics over Jan. 6. A group of pro-Trump GOP members has actively started to downplay the violence of the attack on Congress, including a few seeking seats on the select panel.

When asked about his response to Cheney's appointment, GOP Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) said: “Whatever the opposite of surprised is.”

McCarthy is already urging his GOP conference to stay far away from the panel’s work, underscored by his warning that he could strip the committee assignments of any Republican who accepted a Pelosi appointment. they choose to participate. Asked about McCarthy’s threat, Pelosi dismissed the question: “I’m not talking about him," she told reporters. "Go ask him about what he says.”

If McCarthy does try to yank Cheney from her committees, he'd be doing so without a green light from the top Republican on one of her panels.

“I don’t think any Republican member should participate in this Democrat controlled ‘Sham Theater,’” said Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the House Armed Services Committee's ranking member. “But that is just my position, any member has a right to do whatever they want to do, regardless of whether it is productive or not.”

The other Republican who voted Wednesday to create the select committee, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, dismissed McCarthy's attempt to scare off Republicans who might accept a Pelosi offer to serve.

"Who gives a shit?" Kinzinger replied Thursday morning, confirming the warning from the California Republican. After Cheney was given a seat by Pelosi, Kinzinger tweeted a cheer: "Fantastic news!"

“I do think the threat of removing committees is ironic, because you won't go after the space lasers and white supremacist people but those who tell the truth,” Kinzinger added of McCarthy’s indication he would strip committee assignments from any members picked by Pelosi to serve on the panel.

Kinzinger's references to "space lasers" and "white supremacist people" are nods to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), respectively. Greene lost her own committee assignments following a string of incendiary remarks, including a baseless conspiracy theory regarding wildfires and lasers, while Gosar spoke at a conference organized by a prominent white nationalist earlier this year.

"What happened on January 6th can never happen again," Cheney said in a statement confirming she would accept Pelosi's offer. "Those who are responsible for the attack need to be held accountable and this select committee will fulfill that responsibility in a professional, expeditious, and non-partisan manner."

McCarthy on Thursday declined to say whether he will make recommendations for GOP members to sit on the Democrat-led committee, and Pelosi indicated Thursday she could move ahead without any of his choices.

"We hope that they would choose them expeditiously," Pelosi said of McCarthy's picks for the panel. But if he doesn't, Pelosi said: "Well, we have a quorum."

But the California Republican's closed-door warning delivered Wednesday to several of his conference members suggests that he's preparing to do what he can to undercut the Jan. 6 committee's work.

That warning was first reported by Punchbowl News.

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.

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Pelosi to announce this week whether she will create Jan. 6 select committee

Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to announce this week whether she will create a new committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, weeks after Republicans blocked a bipartisan probe under pressure from former President Donald Trump.

Pelosi’s office clarified Tuesday night that she had not formally announced plans to form that committee, capping an hour of confusion after reports surfaced that she had done so at a closed-door meeting earlier that night. In that discussion, Pelosi seemed to suggest that she would move forward with creating the committee, according to a source in the room.

The speaker did not say exactly when she would formally announce her plans. A growing number of Democrats have been pushing for a select committee, which could take on the investigative work of the Sept. 11-style commission that Republicans rejected last month.

The caucus has been debating for weeks whether to launch a separate probe when several House committees, including the Homeland Security Committee, are already leading their own investigations into the violent riot.

If the speaker does opt for a select committee, they can consolidate their investigations into a single body but run the risk of being perceived as partisan. Republicans created a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks in the Libyan city of Benghazi, for example, but the panel drew criticism from Democrats.

Some Democrats have also privately feared that a party-line probe could further fuel tensions across the aisle, with a small but vocal faction of the GOP downplaying the violence of the Jan. 6 attack.

“If Jim Jordan were in charge, it would be just like the Benghazi investigation. Luckily, he’s not in charge,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who led the impeachment charge against Trump for inciting that insurrection in January.

The House passed legislation last month to establish a bipartisan commission, but Senate Republicans blocked the bill, arguing existing committee-led and federal investigations made the commission “extraneous.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he could bring the legislation up for another vote, but Pelosi’s announcement would appear to table any plans to force another vote.

Two Senate committees released their own bipartisan report on Jan. 6 security failures earlier this month, but Democrats took pains to say their reports were not a substitute for a broader investigation into the insurrection. The Senate committees’ reports only examined security, preparation and response to the attack rather than addressing bigger themes like the White House’s actions during the insurrection.

CLARIFICATION: This story was updated to reflect Pelosi’s decision-making from an earlier edition that cited sourcing which indicated she had announced that she decided to create the committee.
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