By Adam Pincus
He is running against U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and John Larson (D-Conn.) for the position of vice chairman of the caucus, which is being vacated by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is running for caucus chairman.The vice chairman assists the chairman, who directs the day-to-day operations of the caucus, which is the lead group responsible for communicating the party's message to congressional Democrats. Crowley made the announcement during a meeting with reporters Monday in Jackson Heights during which he also discussed his co-sponsorship of a bipartisan immigration reform bill currently in the House Judiciary Committee, which is the House version of the Kennedy/McCain legislation in the Senate.He said his election to the leadership post would be beneficial to his district, which covers western Queens and parts of the Bronx, raising him from “being a four-termer to a leadership position.” “Leadership is respected in the House by chairpeople and in funding, though in funding we do pretty well now,” he said.Schakowsky has approximately 37 Democratic members supporting her of the 104 needed to be elected, according to a congressional source. Larson has 17 supporters, said his senior legislative assistant Brian Maher. There are currently 206 Democratic House members.The caucus election jockeying started a year ahead of schedule, Maher said, due to the possible decision by current caucus chairman U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J. to seek the )New Jersey Senate now held by fellow Democrat Sen. Jon Corzine, who is running for governor of the state. Normally the caucus elections would occur in January 2007 following the congressional elections in November.Crowley said there were several reasons he supported the immigration legislation, the Flake-Gutierrez-Kolbe-Crowley Bill. He said national security was a concern, noting that there were between six and 15 million undocumented people residing in the country.”We need to find out who these people are,” he said.But he said another concern was for the immigrants who he did not believe would leave the country regardless of restrictive government measures. He called them “hardworking,” and said they deserved an opportunity to become citizens.”For me [the bill] needs to have a vehicle to make them a citizen, no matter how difficult,” he said.This bill, in contrast with Bush administration proposals, would give applicants a route toward citizenship, following the payment of a $2,000 fee and other requirements.He said the bill included the fee as a measure to illustrate that the bill was not an amnesty, which would have cost the bill some support.”This is not an amnesty,” Crowley said, “Though I would prefer an amnesty.”Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.