WASHINGTON – Rep. Steny Hoyer acknowledged Sunday he was seeking assurances from incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she would not retaliate against his supporters after he won the No. 2 House leadership post.
Hoyer, D-Md., insisted there was "no bad blood" with Pelosi after she publicly supported Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for the job of majority leader. Hoyer said he was confident Pelosi would not punish House colleagues who voted 149-86 last week to make Hoyer the majority leader when Democrats take control in January.
"We're going to talk about that," said Hoyer, when asked whether Pelosi had made promises not to retaliate by denying choice committee assignments. "One of the reasons it's going to not happen is that there are a lot of them."
"It's one thing ... if you have a margin of one or two or five or even 10, but when you have a margin as decisively as the caucus made a decision, then it's time to move on," Hoyer said.
Last week, Democrats chose Hoyer — who has long had a difficult relationship with Pelosi, D-Calif., — after unanimously backing her as the first female speaker.
On Sunday, Hoyer sought to play down any personal differences or ill will, noting that the two have worked together in the House Democratic leadership for many years.
"The American public have just given us a big mandate for change and taken the country in a new direction," he said. "Nancy and I share that obligation together. That's our objective and we're going to work very closely to accomplish that."
Former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich called Pelosi's decision to support Murtha a "mistake" but said Republicans should not underestimate her.
"Republicans, instead of chortling about ... the fact that she backed Murtha rather than Hoyer ... need to start by saying, you know, if she has these weaknesses, how come she's going to be speaker? She won," Gingrich said.
"She did make a mistake with Murtha," he added. "I think if she appoints Alcee Hastings to be the head of intelligence, that will be a further mistake in the direction of making her far too left-wing and far too insensitive."
Pelosi has not said whom she would appoint to lead the House Intelligence Committee. Hastings, D-Fla., and Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, are considered front-runners to take over in what has been considered a snub to the current senior Democrat on the panel, Rep. Jane Harman of California.
Pelosi has told Harman she will not be reappointed to the committee after her position expires at year's end. Hastings, the next senior Democrat on the committee, is a former federal judge who was charged in an FBI bribery sting but was acquitted by a federal jury. Later, he was impeached by the House and removed from the bench in 1989 by the Senate.
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who was elected to the No. 3 House post as majority whip, said, "I very well would support him if that's what Nancy would like to happen."
Gingrich said the main challenge for incoming House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and other Republican leaders is to focus on regaining control of the House in 2008 rather than being the "White House's floor leader."
"They are very different jobs," Gingrich said, citing the danger for Bush in the final two years of his presidency to get caught up on "legacy concerns" rather than working for the broader interests of the Republican Party.
"The House Republicans have a different institutional challenge. How do they reach out in very closely contested districts, recruit the candidates, build the record, create the excitement and the energy to regain a majority?" Gingrich added.
Separately, Rep. Charles Rangel said tax increases are not on the Democratic agenda. But he said there are some taxes that "we Democrats and hopefully some of the new Republicans would like to see more targeted to the working class and to the middle-class people."
Rangel, incoming chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, declined to say whether he would support a 100 percent deduction for college tuition up to $3,000 a year.
"The problem is that, if you're talking about credits and you're talking about tax reform, it's inconsistent," said Rangel, D-N.Y.
Hoyer appeared on ABC's "This Week," Gingrich spoke on "FOX News Sunday," Rangel was on CBS' "Face the Nation," and Clyburn did an interview on a cable news network.