Rep. Adam Schiff of California has been positioning himself to become Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s successor as House Democratic leader, working behind the scenes to secure enough backing for his bid, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The report cited over a dozen members of Congress and senior aides as saying Schiff is considering a bid to become the head of the House Democratic caucus should Pelosi, 82, retire after the November midterm elections.
Those the Post anonymously interviewed included eight lawmakers and 18 staff members and lobbyists.
Should Schiff secure enough support for his bid, he likely would be running against Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Post reported.
“And though he has not made an explicit ask for endorsements, he is gauging members’ interest and planting the seed that leading the caucus is his goal,” the outlet reported.
As part of “gauging” interest, Schiff has been speaking to members of key Democratic congressional blocs, including the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Progressive Caucus and his own New Democratic Coalition, sources told the Post.
As the Democratic Party’s base of support calls for younger and more diverse leaders, it’s unclear whether Schiff, a 62-year-old white man, would be successful in his bid.
Jeffries and Clyburn are both African-American, although Clyburn is older than Schiff at 82. Jeffries is 51.
“I told [Schiff] I thought it would be a difficult thing because of the lead that Hakeem has,” a Democratic representative who is part of the California delegation told the outlet.
“I am with Jeffries and have been for quite some time,” said another California lawmaker who admires Schiff. “This puts me in an awkward place.”
“No one interviewed expressed outright support for Schiff,” the Post reported. “However, every member thought while leadership might not be the right place, Schiff deserved a prominent position within the party.”
Some members viewed Schiff as skipping his place in the tacitly accepted order of succession for House Democrat leadership.
“I think it’s very, very difficult to go from outside the leadership position to jumping everybody,” one source told the Post.
“That is a dynamic that would be hard for any politician. But I think there’s no question that if Schiff thinks he can take the top spot or even the top two or three, I don’t think there’s any question his math is complicated, if not impossible,” the source said.
“We are all very grateful for what he has done and what he continues to do,” a Democratic lawmaker told the Post, “but it’s been more of a high-profile political role than what we may need to knit the caucus together.”
As the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee from 2015 to 2019, Schiff gained prominence when he took part in the investigation of then-President Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.
He was also actively involved in the Democratic Party’s first effort to impeach Trump in 2020, being one of the primary investigators in the inquiry into the president’s July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
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