Caucus Controversies Avoided

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As the Republican and Democratic caucuses readied for the 112th Congress, a few controversies brewed within the ranks, but open-air fights over leadership and policy have mostly been squashed as the caucuses begin deciding on their new directions today.

In the House, Democrats squabbled over leadership positions as current Whip James Clyburn found himself in a race for that position with current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Along with the majority, Democrats lost a leadership post (the role of Speaker disappears), so it appeared someone would have to step aside, and that a vote for the whip job would unfold.

But as it became clear that Hoyer would win out, Speaker Pelosi cut a deal to create an "assistant leader" position for Clyburn, avoiding an actual vote between the two longtime members. The Congressional Black Caucus had withheld support for Pelosi in her quest for minority leader as of last night, seeking answers on what Clyburn's new portfolio would entail, but the fight for leadership positions was not as messy as it could have been.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have faced a dispute over earmarks that has pitted caucus leadership against fiscal conservatives and a handful of incoming, Tea-Party-backed new senators elected earlier this month. Sen. Jim DeMint has pushed the caucus to agree not to request any earmarks in the next Congress, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with some other influential Senate veterans, had opposed him.

McConnell changed his stance yesterday, announcing on the Senate floor that he would support the earmarks ban. The move could seal the deal for DeMint's proposal and save Senate Republicans some conflict with their new members.

And as Minority Leader John Boehner transitions into his new role as Speaker, Bob Cusack points out at The Hill that House Republican leadership controversies have fizzled:

...an anticipated showdown between Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas) for majority whip never materialized. McCarthy will run unopposed after Boehner urged Sessions to serve another cycle as head of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Boehner officially stayed out of the race between Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) for the No. 4 position of conference chairman, but his deputies backed the Texan. Bachmann, a leader of the Tea Party movement, realized she didn't have the votes and endorsed Hensarling. And the storyline of the Tea Party candidate versus the establishment, which had been highlighted on cable news shows, faded away.

So with new members in town, leadership votes being taken, and orientation underway, everything more or less seems to have fallen into place among the Republican and Democratic caucuses for the 112th Congress.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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