House Democrats, already hurting from their election shellacking, have averted a potentially ugly leadership fight.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco helped broker an agreement that paves the way for her to remain Democratic leader and for the party's No. 2 and No. 3 ranking members to retain those positions in the new minority leadership. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the current majority leader, will become minority whip, and James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, now majority whip, will assume the newly created position of assistant leader.
Democrats who will serve in the new Congress will vote on their leaders Wednesday.
The arrangement, which Pelosi announced in a letter to her party's rank and file, averts a clash between Hoyer, whose appeal to more conservative Democrats is seen as crucial to helping the party win back control of the House in 2012, and Clyburn, who is popular with the liberal base.
The move also preserves the vice chairmanship of the Democratic caucus for Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, who could have faced a challenge.
Clyburn, in a letter to Democratic colleagues, said the creation of the new post "allows us to begin the journey back to a stronger and more resilient majority."
"We must be able to connect and communicate with the significant African American, Latino and Asian American communities in this country, most especially in marginal districts," Clyburn wrote. "The road back to the majority runs largely through these caucuses and the communities they represent."
With the GOP winning control of the House in this month's election, Republican John A. Boehner of Ohio is expected to become the new speaker. Pelosi, who became the first woman speaker in 2007, will surrender the gavel in January.