David Dayan was the first to get the whole story right about why Katie Porter was removed from the House Financial Services Committee-- basically chairwoman Maxine Waters' jealousy over the brilliant superstar. Dayan began with the key question: "Why would Democrats take one of their most celebrated young phenoms and remove her from a committee where she has as much expertise as anyone in Congress?"
And the answer: "The question might answer itself. An analysis of the Financial Services Committee and Porter’s time on it reveals that she wasn’t really wanted, perhaps because of the spotlight she garnered and the goals she sought."
He wrote that "In all, 13 members-- it was 12-- sought waivers to serve on the Financial Services Committee, for ten open slots. It’s virtually without precedent on the other exclusive committees that members seek a waiver to serve elsewhere. Financial Services is supposed to be an important committee, but nearly all of the membership splits their duties.
Only two didn’t get the waiver—Porter and Wexton. The latter is serving on Appropriations, another exclusive committee. Only Porter didn’t serve on another exclusive committee, tried to stay on Financial Services, and was rebuffed.
Contrast that with who is serving on the committee. An incredible four chairs of other committees are on Financial Services: New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney (Oversight), Nydia Velázquez (Small Business), and Gregory Meeks (Foreign Affairs), and Georgia’s David Scott (Agriculture). Presumably chairing an entire other committee is a time-consuming job, yet these members—13 percent of the Democrats on Financial Services—are still there. Scott received a waiver to maintain his membership.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), who serves on two other committees, got a waiver to stay on Financial Services. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) got a waiver to serve on two other committees. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) did as well; his waiver allows him to serve on Financial Services and Natural Resources, the same thing Porter wanted. Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), and Sean Casten (D-IL) also sit on two other committees while still serving on Financial Services. Only newcomer Financial Services members Torres and Williams don’t serve on at least one other committee.
In other words, it’s easy to look at the committee makeup and conclude that Porter was singled out. You can supplement that with how Porter was treated when on the committee.
Porter’s hard-charging style clearly rankled Waters, the committee chair. When Porter began to use visual aids like whiteboards and posters to make her points in hearings, Waters sided with Republicans on multiple occasions and forced her to stop. Later, when Porter played an audio clip at a hearing about debt collectors, Waters publicly admonished her: “Will the gentlelady please refrain from disrupting this committee?”
More critically, a review of legislation from the last Congress shows that not a single bill Porter authored passed in the committee. Porter had an incredible impact through hearings, even stimulating changes in policy, but she was obviously frozen out of the lawmaking side of the committee’s work.
Waters’s office did not respond to a request for comment about any of this. But the overriding conclusion from this analysis is that Waters isn’t interested in any deviation from her committee priorities. She has been careful to cultivate an image as the most progressive chair in Financial Services history. But the “Auntie Maxine” PR breaks down upon more careful inspection.
Waters stacks her committee with part-timers to more easily control the agenda. She pushes bipartisan legislation that won’t rock the boat. After the 2018 midterms, a lack of interest in the committee allowed a handful of progressives to join it. But when one of them, a consumer protection expert with deep knowledge of financial regulation, someone who previously said that financial services “is my life,” wanted to use the committee’s power to stand up for ordinary people and restructure financial markets to end the ripoffs? Well, Waters can’t have that.
This is not the first time Porter has been passed over. She lost out on a role overseeing the CARES Act corporate bailout to Donna Shalala, who had no experience with the core issues involved. You shouldn’t wonder why Democrats don’t have much of a bench when they treat rising stars this way.
This is an easily fixable situation. Just adding a couple seats back to the Financial Services Committee would give enough room to reinstate Porter. It’s not unprecedented to add members to committees after the initial assignments; that’s how Porter got on the Oversight Committee last year. But given Waters’s clear proclivities, it’s likely Porter wouldn’t be able to be effective even if she got back on.
Ultimately, Porter will be fine. Her recent report on consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry and how this keeps prices high and squelches new life-saving medications, shows that she will continue to take on corporate miscreants and press for change. She just won’t do it in the Financial Services Committee, which is a sad commentary on the House Democratic leadership’s priorities.
It' key to keep in mind that none of Porter's legislation was ever allowed out of committee to the House floor, and only one bill was even ever marked up, which is an incredibly poor record for a Frontliner. No doubt Porter will face a really tough race in 2022, and legislative wins will be crucial to her reelection campaign. Waters is undercutting one of the most important fresh voices in the Democratic Party-- and Pelosi allowed it to happen. The seniority system is one of the worst cancers the House Democrats have inflicted themselves with.