California Governor Jerry Brown this morning announced the appointment of Congressman Xavier Becerra as the new state attorney general, replacing Kamala Harris, who will be sworn in next month as California’s junior senator.
Rep. Xavier Becerra has been has been tapped by California Gov. Jerry Brown to serve as the state’s next attorney general, filling the role vacated by Sen.-elect Kamala Harris.
The role will be a prominent promotion for Becerra (D-Calif.), who’s served in Congress for 24 years but has been blocked from advancing to the top of House Democratic leadership and hasn’t been shy about looking for other opportunities.
“Governor Brown has presented me with an opportunity I cannot refuse — to serve as Attorney General of my home state,” Becerra said in a statement accepting the nomination.
Becerra’s appointment has to be confirmed by the California State Assembly and Senate and won’t be officially submitted until Harris resigns.
“Xavier has been an outstanding public servant – in the State Legislature, the U.S. Congress and as a deputy attorney general,” Brown said in a statement.
Becerra leaving Congress also means he’ll no longer face off against Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) for the coveted Ways and Means ranking member spot, something he announced he’d be running for earlier this week.
So another aspiring leader of House Democrats bites the dust.
Look, I have no animosity towards Nancy Pelosi, but she has overstayed her welcome at this point. In fact, I’d argue that she should have stepped down after the loss of the Democratic House majority in 2010. Continuing to stay on for repeated election cycles of disappointment and failure, besides inculcating a culture of despair, has driven out a lot of potential leaders who could have and should have had their shot by now. Pelosi, now 76, is not going to be the leader who brings Democrats back to the majority – that goal is now 6-8 years in the future, if not more. So why stay? Especially when folks like Becerra and Chris Van Hollen, among others, have left the chamber because Pelosi, until this year, has shown no inclination to share power nor to give any indication of when she intends to step down.
Yes, she won her leadership election this week, but the rank and file are not happy at all. This Atlantic article is depressing as hell, all of it.
More broadly, Ryan was channeling a growing anxiety among his colleagues (and the party more broadly) that, if House Democrats don’t find a way to loosen caucus elders’ death grip on the levers of power, junior members will grow ever-more frustrated about their lack of upward mobility––and the entire team will be consigned to permanent minority status.
Age can be a delicate subject on the Hill, where many lawmakers dig in and serve until they have, let us say, lost a step or two. (I’ll spare you the details of the time an ancient Senator got muddled and commanded a colleague of mine to escort him to the potty.) But pretty much everyone agrees that there are downsides to having a trio of mid-septuagenarians—Pelosi at 76, Steny Hoyer at 77, and James Clyburn at 76—locking up the top three spots indefinitely.
For starters, it doesn’t exactly portray Dems as the party of the future. “When you have the top three leaders in the House in their mid 70s, optically it’s probably not great,” says a former top House leadership aide—who, like most folks I spoke with, asked for anonymity on this ticklish topic. (By way of contrast, on the Republican side of the chamber, Speaker Paul Ryan is 46, while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and chief whip Steve Scalise are both 51.)
“Younger members feel there’s no visible path to leadership.”
This can be particularly frustrating for younger members looking to shake things up, said Moran. “They’re looking at leadership that is not just of their parents age, it is of their grandparents’ age, for some of them.”
The situation is not limited to the top slots, clarifies the former House aide. The caucus relies heavily on seniority when doling out chairmanships to, say, the Steering Committee and the Policy and Communications Committee (which handles messaging), as well as when choosing ranking members of committees like Appropriations and Judiciary. “So you have people who are long in the tooth who have been there forever as the ranking members on these key committees,” said the former aide.
“Younger members feel there’s no visible path to leadership,” said Moran, who retired from the House in 2015 after 12 terms. “And I don’t know that they’re necessarily looking for power, but they’re looking for more influence.”
Something’s gotta give here, because another two or three cycles of bad election outcomes is just not acceptable.