Some years ago, I was a member of the Progressive Caucus foundation's board. Once the CPC started recruiting anti-progressive New Dems, I stopped participating and eventually resigned. I've always contended that Pocan wanted them in the caucus so he could continue boasting that the CPC was the largest caucus in Congress (and to get their annual dues). Conservatives like Donald Norcross (New Dem-NJ), Gil Cisneros (New Dem-CA), Jimmy Panetta (New Dem-CA), Brendan Boyle (New Dem-PA), Angie Craig (New Dem-MN), Debbie Mucarsel Powell (New Dem-FL), Darren Soto (New Dem-FL), Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA), Don Beyer (New Dem-VA), Madeleine Dean (new Dem-PA), Brad Sherman (New Dem-CA), Joe Morelle (New Dem-NY), Tulsi Gabbard (God Knows What-HI), Lacy Clay (corruptionist-MO), Lisa Blunt Rochester (New Dem-DE), wanted to be in the caucus as some kind of bogus insurance policy against grassroots primaries. This past November, the voters in their districts did what the CPC should have-- kicked several out of Congress.
Last week, Joel Bliefuss, took a look at the new post-Pocan rules and how they will effect the CPC going forward. Many CPC supporters, myself included, are hoping the new rules will give Pramila Jayapal, now the chair, the tools she needs to forge the caucus into a real fighting force with actual clout. The addition of Marie Newman, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones and Cori Bush will help.
"In Congress," wrote Bleifuss, "bipartisanship does not serve the interests of the majority of Democrats, especially those who suffer the effects of structural racism and generational poverty. Look no further than three “crowning” bipartisan achievements of the 1990s: the 1994 crime bill, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 and the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall bank regulation. The latter came home to roost in 2008, enabling the financial crisis. The George W. Bush administration’s subsequent $700 billion bank bailout rescued Wall Street but did nothing for the 10 million families who lost their homes. Fast forward 12 years and we are again headed toward economic catastrophe. The Covid-19 pandemic and the expiration of pandemic-related unemployment benefits will move 14 million Americans one step closer to deep poverty and homelessness. This level of economic destitution has not been seen since the 1930s. One difference between the Covid-19 Recession and the 2008 Great Recession is that progressives in Congress have since gotten their act together. The CPC has restructured itself (starting January 3) into a disciplined, small‑d democratic political operation that will push progressive legislation on the inside while helping raise a ruckus on the outside."
Here's where it gets interesting. Among the new rules:
One that requires members to vote as a bloc on issues supported by two-thirds of the caucus.
Should a member fail to adhere to this rule at least 66% of the time, they could face expulsion.
Members must attend CPC meetings and respond to requests from the caucus whip (currently Minnesota’s Rep. Ilhan Omar) about where they stand on issues.
More good news: "If some CPC members find the new rules unacceptable, no sweat. Jayapal made clear she 'would rather have people who are really committed to the Progressive Caucus in the caucus and participating rather than sort of just having it as a label.'"
Bliefuss concluded that "Because the Democratic majority in the House is so slim-- just 13 seats-- a united CPC could even extract the concessions from House leadership so desperately needed right now: eviction moratoriums, student debt relief, unemployment assistance. These types of policies are anathema to party centrists, who apparently would rather captain a sinking ship than surrender any control to partisans in steerage. But providing actual economic relief is essential to prevent Democratic losses in the midterms and 2024. Movement-backed Democrats must be disciplined and organized in working with the new president, who inherits a crisis. Otherwise, a shipwreck is imminent."
In the election for Speaker today, Pelosi beat McCarthy 216-208. Although there were feints in that direction by AOC, Cori Bush and Barbara Lee, in the end no progressives voted against her. Two right-leaning Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party voted against her: Jared Golden (Blue Dog-ME) and Conor Lamb (PA). Blue Dogs Abigail Spanberger (VA) and Mike Sherrill (NJ) voted "Present," as did New Dem Elissa Slotkin (MI), the coward's way out.