Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Leadership: Majority and Minority Floor Leaders

While the Speaker of the House wields a great amount of power and influence over the House of Representatives and legislature as a whole, the responsibility and work that goes in to strategizing and coordinating legislation is not simply done by one person (and his/her army of clerks and assistants). The Majority and Minority Floor Leaders play large, albeit very different roles in the way the House works day to day. While both are working towards very different goals and endgame results, the Majority and Minority Leaders act as the voices of their parties on the floor. Generally speaking for or against the legislation of the day or week, the Majority and Minority Leaders work diligently towards party cohesion and the advancement of their policy objectives.
With the Speaker of the House being the leader of the majority party, the Majority Leader is actually the party’s second in command. The Majority Leader’s primary function, as stated early, is the voice of the party and the rallying point for party representatives on the floor. As the Speaker of the House has become a much more visible and media-centric position, Speakers must be tactful in their public appearances and thus rarely speak on the floor. Current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D – CA), for example, has only spoken 7 days (totaling only 1:00:07 time) this year, whereas Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has more than doubled that (Congressional Chronicle). The role of keeping party cohesion and advancement from the day to day thus falls on the Majority Leader who works closely with the Speaker and other senior leaders to voice and coordinate pending legislation.
Coming from a much more difficult position is that of the Minority Leader. The Minority Leader is actually the party leader from the minority party (not second in command like the Majority Leader), and was typically the minority party’s nomination for Speaker of the House. While the job of the Speaker and Majority Leader is a bit easier (by virtue of simply having the majority), it is the Minority Leader’s job to solidify party objectives and attempt to disrupt policy areas and legislation that contradict party goals and objectives. This is done by creating dissent within the majority party and attempting to attract votes from majority representatives so as to disrupt the majority’s ability to pass legislation. Acting very much like a subversive or insurgent against the majority party’s interests, it is the Minority Leaders job to be the voice of the party on the floor and to work towards achieving a majority vote in the next round of elections.

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