Delaney Adds to Maryland's Roster of Congressional Power Brokers


WASHINGTON—Rep. John Delaney, Maryland’s newest member of Congress, has bolstered the state’s already outsized influence on the Hill.

Delaney, who unseated 10-term Republican congressman Roscoe Bartlett in November, was named senior whip and elected as one of three presidents of the House Democratic freshman class earlier this month.

As a member of the Democratic Whip team, Delaney “will participate in weekly strategy meetings with Democratic leadership on upcoming legislation," according to a news release announcing the appointment, as well as wrangle votes on key issues.

“I want to get things done. If becoming a leader helps me do that, then I’ll do that,” Delaney said recently when asked about his congressional aspirations.

Before running for Congress, he co-founded CapitalSource, a Chevy Chase-based commercial lender, in 2000.

Delaney, who said there is a lack of business experience in Congress, will have a chance to put his financial acumen to use as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services.

Some prognosticators are bullish on Delaney’s chances of becoming yet another party leader from the Free State.

“My suspicion is that John Delaney is someone who the Maryland delegation—and the national party—feels good about,” said Michael Cain, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Cain said Delaney’s early appointments are “a good first start for him.”

As a senior whip, Delaney joins a delegation already full of top national congressional leaders. Delaney will report to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, serves as ranking member on the influential Committee on the Budget. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., recently became the first female chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has Maryland roots—she was born in Baltimore and hails from a very politically involved family.

“The number of Marylanders in leadership is reflective of the quality of the leaders we’ve elected,” said Paul Herrnson, a government professor and director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland. “We elected good people to Congress.”

Cain, of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, was also complimentary of the state’s delegation.

“All of them are first-rate politicians on their own,” he said. “There’s a reason why these folks win so often.”

Maryland’s members of Congress have also proven adept at capitalizing on chances to climb the ladder of power.

“Many of them have taken advantage of opportunities to take advantage of their talents,” Herrnson said.

Van Hollen, for example, has played a major role in the negotiations surrounding the so-called “fiscal cliff.” He's also the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

While the House approved a last-minute measure to avoid the cliff, the measure is only temporary and debate will pick up again this spring, meaning that Van Hollen will likely be thrust further onto the national stage.

He has become a familiar presence on cable television, where he appears frequently to defend his party, whether on efforts to reduce the deficit or reform health care.

“Chris Van Hollen has to be considered as someone who’s serious for any leadership position should they open,” Cain said.

In taking over the powerful Appropriations Committee, Mikulski replaced Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who died in December 2012.

Mikulski has long been the dean of the female members of the Senate, a group that now numbers a record 20. She is the longest-serving female member of Congress.

“She’s been playing such an important role in the Senate for so long,” Herrnson said. "One of her achievements is making the pathway for women much easier."

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