Just the Facts

Five Facts on Steny Hoyer’s Interest in Becoming Speaker of the House

By Emma Petasis
August 21, 2018 | Blog

With midterm congressional elections approaching, speculation is increasing about who will replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).  While the most important factor in this discussion is which party takes control of the House, candidates from both parties have already begun maneuvering and securing support from fellow members.  In the Democratic party, much of the discussion has revolved around Minority Leader (and previous House speaker) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), but she faces some significant opposition from within her own party.  If she were unable to secure the votes needed for the nomination, one potential replacement is Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), her top deputy.  Here are five facts on Steny Hoyer’s interest in becoming speaker of the House:

Rep. Hoyer is the Democratic whip, the number two position in Democratic House leadership

Steny Hoyer first won elected office in 1966, at the age of 27, when he was elected to the Maryland State Senate.  Nine years later he was chosen as the youngest president of the Maryland Senate in state history.  He was elected to represent Maryland’s 5th district in the U.S. House several years later in 1981 and has held the seat ever since.  During his time in Congress Rep. Hoyer has held several leadership positions, including chair of the Democratic caucus – the fourth ranking position among House Democrats – from 1989 to 1995; chief candidate recruiter for House Democrats from 1995 to 2000; and House majority leader from 2007 to 2011, before assuming his current role as minority whip in 2011.

He is seen as a possible alternative to current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House if Democrats retake the majority

With Nancy Pelosi facing harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans there has been intense speculation over who could be a potential alternative if the current Democratic leader cannot muster the necessary votes.  While Hoyer and Pelosi have worked closely in the House for decades, it is no secret that they are rivals.  The two first went head to head in 2001 when they battled for the House minority whip position, which Pelosi ultimately won. From that point forward, Pelosi has been able to stay ahead of Hoyer in the Democratic leadership hierarchy.  However, Hoyer has maintained his interest in eventually overtaking Pelosi and has publicly stated he would like to be speaker of the House if Democrats retake the majority.

Rep. Hoyer has faced his fair share of criticism, with many detractors arguing that Democrats need younger members in leadership

While Rep. Hoyer’s experience is undeniable, in some ways it is his greatest weakness.  Hoyer is currently 78, the same age as Nancy Pelosi, and the thought of changing one longtime leader with another does not move the needle for some in the Democratic party who want to see a younger, more diverse leadership group.  Hoyer and his allies have attempted to paint him as a “bridge” leader, who could help facilitate the transition to the younger generation.

Rep. Hoyer has praised the Problem Solvers Caucus Break the Gridlock proposal, which endeavors to make Congress more bipartisan

On July 25, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus released the Break the Gridlock proposal, a rules reform package that is designed to encourage consensus-driven governing by promoting bipartisan solutions in the House of Representatives. In order to get these reforms adopted, many members of the caucus have publicly stated they will withhold their vote for speaker of the House until that candidate agrees to the reforms. Shortly following the announcement, Rep. Hoyer became the first member of either party’s leadership to publicly praise the proposal, stating “I look forward to working with the Problem Solvers Caucus and other Members next year to make sure the House truly represents the will of the American people and is not mired in the same extreme partisanship we’ve seen over the past few years.”

There is a path for Steny Hoyer to become the Democratic nominee for speaker of the House if Democrats retake the majority

In order to be elected speaker of the House, Steny Hoyer would first need to win the party’s nomination during the Democratic Caucus leadership elections, which are expected to be held shortly after Thanksgiving. In the caucus elections he would need to win a simple majority of all members present.  For example, if Democrats were to win 220 seats in the House — a slim majority — Hoyer would need 111 votes to become the Democratic nominee.  However, there are currently around 60 Democratic House candidates who have said they will not support Pelosi for speaker.  While it is certain that not all of these 60 candidates will win, they represent a significant portion of votes that Hoyer could potentially appeal to.


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