Top 3 House Democrats Fine With Crowley Staying on as No. 4

Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn don’t think Crowley needs to step down as Democratic Caucus chairman

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pictured with Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., at an event in January. After Crowley lost his primary Tuesday, Pelosi and Hoyer do not think he needs to step down from his leadership position. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley does not need to step down from his No. 4 position in leadership after losing his primary in New York’s 14th District Tuesday night, the top three House Democrats said. 

“No, absolutely not,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said when asked if Crowley should step down as caucus chairman. The California Democrat added that “of course” Crowley can continue in his leadership role. 

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, respectively in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots behind Pelosi, agreed. 

“He was elected [to serve] until December, and he ought to serve,” Hoyer of Maryland said. 

Clyburn of South Carolina also said he didn’t think Crowley needs to step aside, even though the Democratic Caucus is gearing up for a midterm election effort to take back the House that Crowley will no longer have an individual stake in.

Watch: Pelosi Praises Crowley and His Concession Following Primary Defeat

“Well, he may be an even better spokesman now,” Clyburn said jokingly. “His experience has been broadened quite a bit.”

The Democratic leaders expressed their own sense of loss after their colleague’s defeat. 

“Joe Crowley is a very valued member of Congress, a great gentleman as you saw in the dignity of his concession to Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez],” Pelosi said. “We’ll miss him. But he is extraordinarily talented. We may see him in the public sector again.”

Hoyer said he was “disappointed” that Crowley lost, calling him his friend and “a good member [who] cared a lot about his people, worked hard for jobs and education and things that we’re for.”

Crowley was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party who was likely to continue to climb the leadership ladder.

He was expected to run for Democratic leader in the event Pelosi decided not to — she says she is planning to — or had trouble securing enough votes on the floor. Several Democratic candidates this cycle have said they would not support Pelosi in a leadership race.

‘Open season’

Pelosi on Wednesday didn’t see any real difference in the leadership dynamics after Crowley’s loss, but she did seemingly extend an open invite to anyone who wants to try and challenge her. 

“What it means here is members will chose their leaders as they do. People are elected in the caucus,” she said. “It’s not about me setting somebody up. Just as I was chosen, just breaking ranks and running, others will. And that’s the beauty of this all.”

Exuding her usual confidence, Pelosi also seemed fine with the prospect of members running against her for Democratic leader. 

“That’s open season,” she said. “I’ve always had somebody run against me.”

‘What’s your problem?’

One reporter tried to ask Pelosi a more pointed question about leadership, saying, “If the Democratic Party is increasingly younger, more female, more members, more progressive, should the Democratic House leadership look that way?”

Pelosi responded in her usual sharp way whenever someone tries to ask her about calls for younger leadership. 

“I’m female. I’m progressive. What’s your problem?” she said. 

Clyburn, who made headlines earlier this year when he said all the top Democratic leaders should go if the party fails to retake the House in the midterms, also acknowledged there will be discussions of change regardless of the election outcomes.

“This caucus is always assessing itself,” he said. “Any time conditions change, you’re subject to change. I just think that after every election the caucus gets a chance to give an assessment of the leadership. And they should. I don’t stand in the way of that.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.