Blumenauer: Why I Voted for Steny Hoyer

By Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon. Previously, Blumenauer contributed A first test for the Democrats.

Editor's note: Earlier this morning, Congressman Steny Hoyer won election as the majority leader.

For all the reasons outlined in my previous blog post on the Democratic majority leader race, I have spent more time than I ever expected thinking through my personal decision. It involves three people that I admire for different reasons. Obviously, it involves the two candidates; Democratic whip Steny Hoyer and Jack Murtha. It also involves Nancy Pelosi and my desire to have a team that works for her and the entire Democratic caucus.

I did not support Steny Hoyer in the race in 2001 for Democratic Whip. I was a Pelosi person. I worked hard for her election to the whip position. I respect the outstanding job that she has done unifying and leading the Democratic caucus to victory and the tremendous tasks ahead. I want her to succeed with every fiber in my being not just for the Democrats, but for America. This country needs Nancy Pelosi to be able to bring the full powers of the office of the Speaker in order to deal with the serious problems and deficiencies of this administration and the sad record of Republican control of the House of Representatives for the last dozen years.

Nancy needs a strong, effective leader of the Democratic caucus. Despite personality conflicts between Nancy and Steny, my choice was not based upon who likes whom. My decision was based on the person I felt best qualified to lead our caucus.

As I analyzed my vote, both Steny and Jack were kind enough to have extensive conversations with me.

Jack was passionate about ending the war.

Steny was passionate about helping to lead the caucus.

I have been totally committed to reversing the damage of this reckless action in Iraq and had been so three years before Jack and more forcefully than Steny. If the goal is to help solve the Iraq disaster, it is imperative that we function with maximum effectiveness as a unified and strong caucus.

Jack can be the point person and public face as effectively, perhaps with greater impact, as the top Congressional appropriator on defense.

Steny can help best not just by being committed to our work on Iraq, but being our caucus floor leader to fight for our entire agenda.

By experience, his voting record and advocacy for wide range of caucus priorities, including the environment and ethics reform, Steny Hoyer is the best choice for majority leader and won my vote.

As I had written earlier, this election was about more than the Democrats selecting a majority leader. It was a chance to demonstrate our character and our capacity to deal with differences. My sense is that we met that first challenge. Now it is up to us to see what we do from here.

  • KISS (unverified)

    surprise, surprise! Blumy has always been the radical leftest that what makes demos as despised as repugs.

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    This was not the outcome I wanted, but I really appreciate the fact that Earl has been forthcoming with his thought process and his position. Too many times, votes that are of great concern to the public, never get discussed openly or all we get are platitudes. Thank you Earl.

    Now I really, really hope that the caucus will unify behind the leadership and will also provide Murtha with the platform and the respect to fight for us on the War front.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    With due respect for my representative, Hoyer is the DLC candidate, which means that Hillary "Bomb the Brown People" Clinton and her friends are exercising their power over the House of Representatives already. I will expect to see James Carville's smiling face too, telling me to support the war in Iraq because it is somehow good for Blue Dog Democrats.

    The Green Party is having their multi-state convention on Whidbey Island in Washington soon. I think my wife and I will attend, so watch for my future posts under the GreenNote name. Pity, because BlueNote has much better jazz.

    Stop the war NOW!

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    Earl, it is important for you to participate in stopping the traditional media spin related to the vote this morning. Traditional media is ginning up this story as a major split into factions in the House over the Murtha/Hoyer vote..further drawing the conclusion that Pelosi will not have the united support of the Representatives in the House, thus she'll be less powerful. I read your column as an attempt to stop the spin and the diviceiveness. All I can ask is for you to more along the same vein. Thanks for your reasoned and transparent vote which you shared with us. I hope you are correct, that Murtha can be more effective as the point person to help lead the country out of Iraq.

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    I echo paulie and John here--it's great to see a Congressperson explain their vote openly and thoughtfully. It makes the fact that I would have chosen someone else go down a lot more smoothly. And I didn't get a chance to talk personally with Reps Hoyer and Murtha, while Earl did--so who am I to second guess him on this?

    I'm disappointed that Hoyer appeared to lobby his way into the job by pubicly calling Murtha's character into question, but now that he's the one in the #2 spot, hopefully this entirely valid disagreement can be put behind the caucus and all 230 (or however many) members can move forward as one.

  • LT (unverified)

    I'm disappointed that Hoyer appeared to lobby his way into the job by pubicly calling Murtha's character into question, but now that he's the one in the #2 spot, hopefully this entirely valid disagreement can be put behind the caucus and all 230 (or however many) members can move forward as one.

    Torrid, I agree with you, but I think there is a spelling mistake.

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    Thank you for explaining your vote. It greatly helps to be informed of your thinking as you wrestle with a vote. In reply to your previous post about this, I strongly advocated backing Pelosi as it would have the halo effect within the media narrative of a unified caucus and a strong personal relationship between the number 1 and number 2 positions within the caucus.

    Having said that, I think your reasoning seems sound, and concur that Hoyer would be better at a wider range of issues, particularly on one of the most important ones we found in this past election, that of corruption and ethics reforms within Congress. I think Hoyer, while a little too close with K street style of operating than I would prefer, he is in a much stronger position than Mr. Murtha to speak out on such matters as the 110th Congress moves forward on such matters. I do not say that to denigrate Mr. Murtha, but I think he can and will be more effective if he can be more narrowly focused on DoD issues and Iraq than on ethics reform where he has some sketchy aspects in his history to be an effective advocate. In short, he would be an unwelcome lightening rod on such matters. Furthermore, I would think that while Iraq is a profoundly dire issue with long-term consequences, our zeal on trying to extricate ourselves from the mess that Bush made (which Murtha actually supported initially) should not blind ourselves to the reality that we do not control the White House and so we will not have the power to change policy in Iraq at this point, outside of acting as the loyal opposition and holding this Administration responsible for their actions (and inactions) in changing course.

    Again, I thank you for taking the time to reach out and explain your thinking and not leave us in the dark to try and come to our own conclusions uninformed. SUch dialog and outreach goes a long way in maintaining healthy relationship with the netroots/grassroots and I very pleased and encourage you to keep us up to date like this as much as you can. It helps us be an advocate for your service, and also (I hope) gives you better sense of what the netroots and grassroots are thinking and where we are at. You have had and continue to have my support albeit form Washington County (though I was a former constituent in NE Portland until last year).

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    "Torrid, I agree with you, but I think there is a spelling mistake."

    No mistake--haven't you ever heard of thinking and talking with your other head? :)

    (thanks for catching it...!)

  • JB Eads (unverified)

    One of the striking things about this post is that it's clear that there were two really strong candidates, but only one position. I think that's a sign of a strong caucus -- and that the divisions are probably being a little exaggerated in some of the media reports -- given that many people felt both candidates had really compelling arguments for their candidacies. It's a good problem to have, and now that there's a resolution, time to move on and get to work.

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    Posted by: BlueNote | Nov 16, 2006 10:38:16 AM

    Wow, that seems a little over-the-top. The caucus is unified on a phased redeployment to get us out of Iraq (inlcuding Hoyer). Don't create divisions on issues which don't exist.

    And for the record, I am a staunch Deaniac from early on in the '03 primary race and have nothing but contempt of the DLC and particularly of Carville, so when I say your reply reads like a drama king I say that as someone who is actually sympathetic to efforts to reject the DLC era of triangulation and craven politics of the past and also as someone who has been four square against the most colossal disaster in our nations foreign policy in modern times that is the Iraq invasion.

  • JB Eads (unverified)

    Also, not to be a jerk about it, because I think Murtha's great, but if he's going on Hardball and saying that he's got the votes, but in the end gets outvoted so badly, you could say that maybe that's a sign that Hoyer's a better fit for this job. At least judging from how the two managed their own campaigns here.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    This post is one of the reasons Oregon can be proud to have Rep Blumenauer in Congress.

  • paul in corvallis (unverified)

    Thank you Congressman Blumenauer -- You did the right thing, both in voting for Hoyer and in taking the time to explain your vote here. On everything but Iraq, Hoyer is a better fit for the party. At the top of that list is ethics and the need to change the backroom-dealing earmarking ways of the past.

  • callen (unverified)

    To be honest, I'm not that crazy about either Murtha or Hoyer. If Hoyer is so great at keeping the caucus together, perhaps he should have stayed as whip. I think Pelosi might be more effective as Majority Leader than Speaker, and that maybe we should have gotten a frontman to be Speaker, like Hastert was for Delay.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Congressman Blumenauer, Thank you for taking the time to explain your vote. I wish Hoyer would be more forthright in admitting he was wrong about Iraq and aggressively advocate for speedy disengagement by American troops. That would win support from me. I also hope he will not undermine Speaker Pelosi and others in the Caucus on important issues, as he has in the past.

  • jami (unverified)

    Pleased to see you here, Congressman Blumenauer. I'm glad it went for Steny Hoyer, but I hope Congress will follow Murtha's lead in focusing on Iraq and getting our troops home for some well-deserved rest.

    I'd also like to see someone talking to NATO about getting some help stabilizing the country, and more discussion of dividing the country up, Yugoslavia-style, to stop the ethnic cleansing before it gets worse. I realize our Commander-in-Chief is still letting inertia direct his war strategy, but there must be some things Congress can do to change course.

    (Kari, in all your spare time, can the troll money go somewhere more 2008-ish or just leftwing-good-cause-ish? They're baaa-aaack.)

  • Anon (unverified)

    Isn't it convenient that Congressman Blumenauer only explains his vote AFTER the House Majority Leader election has taken place? Before the vote, he was publicly undecided. After the vote, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, he is with the winner!


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    Posted by: Anon | Nov 17, 2006 10:05:12 AM

    Wow... what an incredibly pointless and ignorant observation. Well done.

  • Salemite (unverified)

    I did notice that Hooley, DeFazio, and Wu all publicly endorsed either Steny Hoyer or Jack Murtha before the election outcome was known. What was Blumenauer hiding?

  • Earl Blumenauer (unverified)

    Someone suggested that I was hiding my vote to have it both ways....

    I spent time trying to get this right, having serious, long conversations with both Steny and Jack. I didn't talk to the press because I was working to shape a particular point and message to the media and my fellow Democrats.

    In fact, my commentary found its way into print in a variety of sources and was more important at that point than my voting preference, which then would likely have been the story.

    <h2>Steny, Jack and Nancy all knew how I was going to vote, and I announced it on the Thom Hartman show, 15 minutes before the vote. You conspiracy people will need to find another hobby horse.</h2>
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