The new leadership

Washington Post / January 6, 2011

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The speaker: John Boehner, R-Ohio, is second in line for the presidency, behind the vice president. His most important daily roles will be setting the floor agenda, keeping parliamentary order, and appointing lawmakers to committee and subcommittee chairmanships, as well as to conference committees that craft final legislation.

The majority leader: Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., will have responsibilities that include daily, weekly, and monthly House floor scheduling; urging the rank and file to support the party line; and countering the opposition’s parliamentary maneuvers. The role was created in 1899 as Congress expanded.

The majority whip: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will be charged with counting GOP votes and reporting to party leaders on a bill’s prospects if it is brought to the floor. He will also distribute floor schedules to the rank and file and ensure that members are on the floor for votes.

The Republican Conference chairman: Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, will serve as chairman of the organizational body for all House Republicans. The group is responsible for picking the party’s leadership and approving GOP committee assignments. It also maintains a website and develops internal and external communications strategies, including issuing talking points and scheduling media availability for lawmakers.

The minority leader: Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will serve as the “leader of the ‘loyal opposition,’ ’’ as the House clerk describes it, and the “minority counterpart to the speaker.’’ While the minority leader and speaker share some duties, the minority leader by default defends the minority’s rights.

The minority whip: Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., will engage in head counts of Democratic troops to keep them in line for votes and plot strategy with the party leadership. Planning parliamentary protests during floor debate will be an extra arrow in Hoyer’s quiver as he tries to keep lines of communication open with the dwindling band of conservative Democrats.

The assistant minority leader: Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., was installed in this new post after he agreed to drop his challenge to Hoyer for the minority whip job. The exact responsibilities of the position remain unclear.

The Democratic Caucus chairman: Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., will head the group that elects the House Democratic leadership and assigns committee and subcommittee ranking members, as well as enforces rules and party discipline. The caucus meets weekly and has standing issues task forces as well as an annual Caucus Issues Conference.