The big "Caution Under Construction" signs on Change St. are bilingual this week. The yellow hatters on Change St. are scratching their heads this week about the now -heated scramble touched off by an Obama offer of the position of US Trade Representative to Congressman Xavier Becerra. While the details of the offer are back and forth, just the idea of Becerra giving up two big positions to join team Obama is creating a vacuum that puts Hoover to shame.
While Becerra would give up a safe Congressional seat to be USTR the scramble to replace him in Los Angeles is the calmer of two dust-ups. The bigger battle is in DC.
Becerra had just been elected Vice Chair of the Democratic Congressional Caucus with Speaker Pelosi's blessing. Now as his eyes wander away from the House a new race for the coveted leadership post of Vice Chair has emerged. The race has added passion since Latino leaders are beginning to feel slighted by the Obama transition team. The idea of potentially coming into a historic political period, that Latinos had a huge hand in delivering to Democrats, as second stringers is not setting well. The added sting of potentially losing the House power post earned by Becerra is salt to an opening wound.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus last night considered endorsing a Vice Chair candidate to replace Becerra should he become the next USTR. Congresswoman Hilda Solis and the controversial Congressman Joe Baca have both put their hats in the ring. The Hispanic Caucus vote was stalled when members were reminded that not only was the Becerra body not cold yet, in fact the patient was not even dead. Becerra is still very much the Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Elect. However that has not stopped and in my opinion, should not stop, Latinos from gathering support from House Dems to for a viable Hispanic replacement.
But so far realistically there is only one Latina/o candidate that has any chance of landing in the vice chair position and that is Hilda Solis. While Baca has proven himself adept at maneuvering internal processes within the Congressional Hispanic Caucus the larger Democratic Caucus feels no compunction to please him. Baca's unfortunate and embarrassing confrontation with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (ya, he is that Congressman Baca) still burns in the memory of most of the members of the Democratic Women's Caucus. Couple that with the influence those women members have in the Progressive Caucus and it doesn't take a math major to see that the Baca quest for Vice Chair is an exercise in futility.
In addition should Baca somehow gather enough votes to be a real contender there is reason to believe that Pelosi would send subtle but strong signals to end the rally. The Speaker has proven to be risk aversive and one look at the national negative media splash that is sure to follow a Baca vice chairmanship is sure to cause a Pelosi intervention.
I once believed that Becerra would stay in the House. I am beginning to think otherwise. But either way: better safe than sorry. Latinos need to aggressively support a viable candidate for the Vice Chair position. If not they should resign themselves to the beltway back bench, that is until they are needed again in 2010.
Mario Solis-Marich is a progressive radio talk show host that can be heard on AM760 in Denver KTLK in Los Angeles and on GoToMario.com world wide.