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Wait, wasn't it supposed to be Republicans fighting over the new Congress?

House Democrat leaders Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn

Wait! Wasn't it the Republicans, flush with energy, enthusiasm and enmity from their flood-level midterm victories, who were supposed to start fighting and arguing amongst themselves in Congress?

But no! With only one lesser leadership position up for competition, they're off organizing transition and reform teams, including freshmen representatives. They'll be ready to institute changes as soon as John Boehner gets that oversized speaker's gavel back in his bronze Buckeye hands come January.

Instead, it's the losers who are scrapping loudly with each other as the lame duck Congress begins to unfold and Democrats transition into the party of no.

Here's the problem: Many counted on the humiliated Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepping down as caucus leader given that she led the party team into the worst election losses in more than seven decades. Which would have allowed Maryland's Steny Hoyer (left, in photo above) to....

...become minority leader and James Clyburn of South Carolina (right, above) to remain the powerful party whip.

But San Francisco's Ms. P decided she didn't really do all that bad of a job and wanted to stay as the leader of the now largely liberal caucus, even though she'll soon become the country's first female ex-speaker, without the plane, etc....That leaves Hoyer and Clyburn for the whip slot.

Now, everyone in this trio is at least 70 and has long been infected with Washingtonitis, meaning they're considered indispensable; just ask them. Both Hoyer and Clyburn have been calling colleagues, lining up support and promising who-knows-what.

Over the weekend Hoyer began openly competing by announcing his latest endorsers, which Clyburn saw as kind of pushy.  So he flew back home for a visit. Even Clyburn admits he lags in that department. But the Black Caucus member was a crucial and timely primary endorser of Barack Obama and, as the highest ranking black congressman ever, can't just be tossed aside.

Obama, who's the highest-ranking elected black American ever, has been over in Jakarta and won't appear to touch this domestic Democratic struggle with a 10,164-mile-long pole. That's House business.

So, at the risk of bruised political egos and who knows what else, the two men will fight it out until one accepts the inevitable -- or Ms. P brokers a deal, as she is attempting now. Meanwhile, some members are pushing to postpone the leadership elections closer to January.

On the Republican side Indiana's Mike Pence stepped down from the fourth-ranking leadership slot of conference chair. And Texas' Jeb Hensarling and Minnesota's Michele Bachmann announced their candidacies.

Electing Bachmann would provide some gender balance to a lot of suits-and-ties and recognize the newly-arrived "tea party" blood. But she has a reputation for launching random rhetorical rockets that the new GOP majority's members may fear as an unnecessary distraction in the 2012 run-up. Still, the way the Republican Party's reward system works, even losing now would put her in position to inherit something worthy later.

(UPDATE: Wednesday, 6 p.m. The Hill reports Bachmann drops her leadership bid with insufficient votes.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press (Hoyer, Pelosi, Clyburn)

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"So has run the tale from earliest days. As [a] civilization waxes to its height, the power for Righteousness and for Integrity of character fails amid luxrious living [greed]. The seeds of selfish indulgence are sown, which in time reap a harvest of disaster [and ruin], and a nation falls." Mary Gray

For the sake of the Health and Soul of the nation, I hope that the Democratic Party will continue to fight with Joy, Courage, Faith, Hope and confidence. The dark ones want you to exist in a state of anger and hopelessness. So let your armour be Joy -- joy that you are fighting for what is right and good for the whole and not the few and Confident that truth and justice, always wins out in the end! And it is imperative that the Dems do a better job at countering the Lies with the Truth, darkness with light!

The GOP Party frequently Invokes the name of God but Acts Un-Godly. The Democratic Party rarely invokes the name of God yet Acts Godly...

It was Death Panels, and a cloud of fear that surrounded the Health Care issue that skewed voters' minds and hearts -- The dark ones love to create an atmosphere of fear, for they cannot thrive or survive long in an atmosphere of love and harmony.

America, we must begin to take our country back from the Money Changers -- time to get off the "yellow-brick road" because we have been on one since the Regan era. Do you Realize that every time corporations and smaller businesses get tax breaks --, taxes rise locally and at state levels. The cold-hearted fact is that Everyday, average Americans shoulder the tax burden in this country, due to tax loopholes, tax cuts and tax breaks for wealthy Americans and Corporations who do not need it. Why in the world would Wealthy Americans need more tax breaks when they pay very little taxes anyway, they need to pay their fair share and take the burden off those who can least afford it. These tax-cuts will cost the country $700 Billion, twice the cost of the Healthcare bill. Ironically, GOP hate to extend unemployment benefits to Americans who desperately need them, while violently fighting to extend tax cuts for the wealthy, who do not need them.

The Party of No's mantra: cut, cut, and more cuts for the middleclass and poor and extend helping hand to the military machine and the wealth merchants. Have we lost our common sense: to create jobs, one must invest in America, her infa-structure, technology and innovations, and most importantly -- her children, through proper education, but Party of No only wants to invest in the rich and well connected.

Think about it, if we had Universal Healthhcare Reform, premiums would be a LOT LESS for everyone -- but that would be too much like doing the right thing -- such as being our Brothers' keeper and treating your neighbor as you would want to be treated yourself!

Following these midterms, I believe Hoyer's presence in leadership is a must. He well versed in the art of compromise and has the firmness necessary to retain party values and act in its best interests. Not only do we need someone who will promote solidarity within the party, but someone who will also find the middle ground with the soon-to-be Majority. Bottom line: Hoyer has the tested experience necessary to be an effective whip.

Interestingly, I don't agree that this in-fight amongst democrats is all that surprising. I have applauded Rep. Clyburn's efforts as the highest ranking African American in congress (though that's not all that important) especially on the issue of net neutrality. This proves that he can be a moderate Democrat. However, and of course it would never be this way - as it was so eloquently articulated that these individuals all view themselves as indispensable (Washingtonitis) - it seems like the most logical progression that Nancy would step down, unless there were some overwhelming rationale urging otherwise. At the end of the day, there should be no deals made, just votes. My vote is for Rep. Clyburn to maintain the whip spot. Why would Hoyer not want to take on the "Lame Duck" speaker anyhow?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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