Reporting for the New Republic last week, Pablo Manríquez wrote about the new dynamics involved with selecting a DCCC chair. One anonymous member summed up the new scrapped race perfectly for him. Referring to the two crooked New Dems who were running, child rapist Tony Cárdenas and campaign finance cheat and scam artist Ami Bera, he or she said “Neither one of those guys is any good.” Understatement, but true.
After Team Hakeem was elected to lead the Democrats in the 118th Congress, New Dem Suzan DelBene, Blue Dog Brad Schneider and Progressive Caucus member Mark Pocan successfully pushed forward their proposal to empower Hakeem Jeffries, as party leader, to unilaterally nominate the next DCCC chair “rather than hold a caucus vote in an open election for the role. Manríquez reported that some members called it a “power grab.” It's worth mentioning that Pocan-- a top Jeffries ally-- hates Cárdenas and Cárdenas hates him as well. They call each names fairly openly and Pocan is determined to keep Cárdenas out of the DCCC chair.
Anyway, even if it was a power grab… the other potential candidate dropped out and Bera and Cárdenas were the only choices and either would have been an unmitigated disaster for the 2024 efforts to regain the House majority. So, yeah, the new rule is terrible… except that it saved the caucus from selecting one of these two corrupt individuals.
AOC told Manríquez that she felt the new rule “is bogus” and she was hardly the only one who wasn’t thrilled with the way it concentrated power in Jeffries’ hands. The rest of the Squad was also unhappy about the rule, although, notably, none of them were running to be chair and they weren’t backing anyone else who would be more fit for the job than Bera or Cárdenas. Last month Ilhan Omar told Politico that she thinks “it is better to keep it as an elected position. Then we get to have a voice on who ends up being in that position.”
Theoretically no one could argue with that position. But, it hasn’t prevented the selection of one horrendous DCCC chair after another and the Cárdenas-Bera contest promised to yield the worst yet. Progressives just don't seem to want to soil themselves by taking the DCCC job, which is almost entirely about raising money.
Winning the majority in the following election cycle is the top job for any House minority leader. For Jeffries, this means picking a DCCC chair by February 15 who can do what Maloney couldn’t— win House seats for the Democrats in 2024.
Jeffries would not reveal his choice for DCCC chair when asked by the New Republic at Wednesday afternoon’s House votes. A Jeffries aide scoffed at the question as the leader-designate passed through the metal detectors and into the House chamber.
Two candidates— both four-term House Democrats from California— have emerged as the front-runners in a chairmanship race that could get ugly in coming weeks. Indeed, the gloves are already coming off between Representatives Ami Bera from Sacramento and Tony Cárdenas from Los Angeles, as whisper campaigns resurface scandals in the press.
Cárdenas, who is out this week with Covid, saw his links to a controversial Southern California pornographer resurface this morning in Politico and National Review. Meanwhile, Bera’s enduring having his family’s not-so-illustrious past redredged for public consumption: In 2016, his father was sentenced to a year in prison for campaign finance violations after he was caught in a money-laundering scheme that provided campaign contributions to his son’s first two congressional campaigns in 2010 and 2012.
…The New Republic asked eight Hispanic Caucus members to confirm reports that the caucus was backing Cárdenas. Only Representatives Ruben Gallego and Chuy Garcia confirmed their support for Cárdenas on the record, but there was a general feeling of resignation among Latino Democrats that Jeffries would inevitably pick Bera to chair the DCCC.
“Tony and I are friends. Obviously we’re both Californians, were classmates, came to Congress together, and I think it’s been a friendly race,” Bera told the New Republic. “With the new leadership team coming in, you really can make the argument that this D-trip chair should be a reflection of their values, their strategy, and be on the same page,” Bera continued.
Asked what his top priority would be as DCCC chair, Bera didn’t waffle: It was head count. “We have some really talented staff over there that just had a really good election night,” he said. “Let’s go evaluate those staff. Let’s see who we can retain and let’s build off the momentum that we already have.”
Cárdenas, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on this story.
Jeffries has until February to “nominate” a candidate for the full caucus to rubber stamp. No one thinks he’s going to pick Cárdenas— not with this video circulating:
But Bera’s scandal isn’t something anyone wants to defend either. There has been talk that going back to an old system of picking someone who isn’t currently a member, a decent idea. Jeffries floated a trial balloon about Tim Ryan, a current member who ran an unsuccessful race for the Senate and won’t be returning to Congress next year. The problem though is that he didn’t run a good race and he lost pretty badly— and to a terrible candidate, J.D. Vance, who he outspent $44,513,984 to $9,086,861. Ryan won the 8 blue counties Democrats count on and nothing else. Predictably, his GOP-lite strategy didn’t work. In 2018, Sherrod Brown ran a more straight-forward New Deal type populist race and beat his GOP opponent by 7 points (a mirror image on Ryan’s race). Brown won not just the 8 blue counties but picked up double that. In other word, Ryan would bring a losing perspective with him to the DCCC job.
I doubt that alone will stop Jeffries from picking whomever he wants for the job— and it isn’t going to be a progressive. It’s funny how the media keeps referring to Jeffries as a young progressive— when he’s 52 and virulently anti-progressive. Last night, Maxine Joselow, reporting on Biden-Pelosi trying to push through an already rejected Manchin anti-Climate bill, noted that Jeffries said, “With respect to anything that may be going on in the Senate relative to Sen. Manchin, it’s not an issue that I’ve been focused on at the moment until it comes over to the House of Representatives. I think in the House we’ve been pretty clear, forward-thinking and visionary as it relates to continuing to confront the climate crisis.” I don’t expect Jeffries to stand up against Biden, Schumer and Pelosi when push comes to shove and they seem determined to force Manchin’s reactionary plan through by attaching it to the so-called “must pass” National Defense Authorization Act. This is what they do when they really want to pass something— unlike the bullshit way Biden and Pelosi managed to kill the sick leave proposal for the railroad workers.