The House Democrats' second-in-command, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, officially announced Monday that he wants to keep that job next year, setting up a showdown with the most senior black congressman in the chamber that all involved had hoped to avoid.
Hoyer, like Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, said the vanquished Democrats need someone with expertise to round up votes against GOP attempts to repeal the health care law and others enacted under President Barack Obama. Winning back the House in 2012, they both said, was their ultimate goal.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose decision to try to stay Democratic leader created the odd man-out scenario, has publicly stayed out of the fray. Both men, officials said, would likely remain in the leadership whatever the outcome of the contest.
Still, the back-and-forth carried racial tinges that kept the contest in a deadlock.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee of California touted Clyburn's role as the vote-wrangling whip of a caucus more ideologically diverse than the one in the next Congress.