Will Becerra Give Up Future Shot at Speakership to be USTR?

Last month California Congressman Xavier Becerra was elected as the fifth highest Ranking Democrat in the House, the Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman. None of the four Democrats out-ranking him in the chamber is under the age of 60, meaning that Becerra, age 50, could have a real shot at the Speakership down the road if he sticks around long enough.

But according to CQ Politics, Barack Obama wants Becerra, the highest ranking Hispanic in the House, to serve as U.S. Trade Representative in his administration, and Becerra may be on the brink of accepting the position.

Rep. Xavier Becerra , D-Calif., has been offered the post of U.S. Trade Representative in the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama , according to Democratic sources.

Becerra is weighing whether to give up his House seniority and newly won spot as vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus to take the Cabinet-level post, a source close to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said. But another Democratic source said the job has been offered and accepted.

Jonathan Martin similarly reports that Becerra "was not inclined to accept the post but that he's likely to change his mind after direct lobbying from the pres-elect."

This is clearly a tough decision for Becerra. When the President asks you to serve, it's difficult to say "no." What's more, while USTR isn't the most prominent position in an administration, it could be a stepping stone for bigger things to come. Rob Portman, the last USTR, currently serves later served as the head of the Office of Management and Budget. Robert Zoellick, Portman's predecessor, is now the President of the World Bank. Mickey Kantor, Bill Clinton's first USTR, was subsequently appointed to be Commerce Secretary. The list goes on.

Yet on the other hand, Becerra could have a real shot at becoming the first ever Hispanic Speaker of the House. His path to the Speakership would be far from sure. While Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn are 69 and 68, respectively, and thus might not be likely heirs to Nancy Pelosi when she leaves the Speakership down the road, Caucus Chairman John Larson is a bit younger at 60 and thus might be a logical successor to Pelosi, or Hoyer or Clyburn as her immediate successor. Additionally, while Chris Van Hollen, 49, ranks below Becerra in the leadership, his tenure as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has earned him the respect of the caucus, thus giving him some strength in a potential run for Speaker in the future. That all said, while Becerra doesn't have a sure shot at the Speakership in the future, he does have a real one. And it's difficult to turn down a genuine opportunity to be Speaker. But Rahm Emanuel did it -- and so too might Becerra.

Tags: Trade Representative, Xavier Becerra (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Portman

Portman is no longer the OMB head. He was here at his NH almamater a couple weeks ago for a post-election panel. He resigned from OMB last year; these days I think he's just a lawyer in Ohio with a PAC. Jim Nussle's in at OMB now.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-12-02 05:33PM | 0 recs
I hope so

because Nancy Pelosi has done a poor job at Speaker, giving Bush everything he wants. Becerra is young, and Latino, a big plus for us, and would make a great face for our party. We'll have a strong woman at Foggy Bottom, Hillary, so that will be no problem.

by Lakrosse 2008-12-02 05:42PM | 0 recs
Bacerra selected

The choice has been made.

by esconded 2008-12-02 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Will Becerra Give Up Future Shot at Speakershi

Well at 50, he's young enough to serve and then return to the House? I'd assume that after 2010 census, California will pick up a House seat or two. How does a hiatus impact his seniority? Would he have to start all over?

There's also the looming retirement of both Feinstein and Boxer over the next decade or so. Senator Feinstein is 75 with four more years on her current term. I'm not sure if she will or will not run for Governor in 2010.

Senator Boxer is 68 and up for re-election in 2010. Assuming she wins, she'd be 76 in 2016 when that seat comes up again. So there will be other opportunities for higher office.

Becerra is a "Southland" guy though I think from Sacramento originally. Not very well know up here in the Bay Area.

From my pov, I'd take the USTR position. It's a strong signal to Latin America. Latin America still has a strong preference for free trade. It's the one part of the Washington Consensus that we care about. The rest of the neo-liberal agenda is being abandoned across the region but access to markets remains a priority.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-02 06:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Will Becerra Give Up Future Shot at Speakershi

Senators who have rejoined the senate haven't regained their previous seniority in the past. I assume it's the same for house members. You're right about the two CA senate seats and even Gov coming up open in future and his being young though.

by Quinton 2008-12-03 01:55AM | 0 recs
Re: House members

That's interesting as I remember Lautenberg (D-NJ) not getting his seniority back after stepping in at the last minute in 2002 to hold the seat after Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) pulled out due to corruption issues. It's ironic that Lautenberg ran the first time around in 1982 because Harrison Williams (D-NJ) resigned due to the Abscam scandal.

by Quinton 2008-12-03 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: House members

opps... meant to say the the house and senate are obviously two different beasts.

by Quinton 2008-12-03 01:36PM | 0 recs

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