My US Representative Katherine Clark (MA-5) is in Dem leadership as the Caucus Vice Chair, the 6th-highest-ranking Rep. The decision to “go inside” is not without cost, as she sometimes seems to hold her tongue on matters of consequence, as one who needs to represent the consensus view of the entire caucus.
House drops plans to return to D.C., citing virus risk; McConnell vows Senate will vote Monday
So the House is essentially paralyzed; but Mitch McConnell is still going to get his judges? Rep. Clark, what influence are you exerting to make the House functional, powerful, and representative of your constituents’ interests?
Yet amid the biggest national crisis in generations, the one branch of government where Democrats hold power has largely sidelined itself, struggling so far to adopt remote voting, Zoom video hearings or any of the other alternative methods that have become standard for most workplaces in the age of covid-19. No administration official has appeared at a congressional hearing in over a month. Committees have been unable to meet in person to debate and advance bills. There is no firm date for when the new oversight panel will start its work.
[Pelosi:] “I’m all for doing the remote voting by proxy. I want it to be bipartisan. The Republican leader, Mr. McCarthy, has assured me that he will consider this. He’s not there yet. He could be there.”
This effectively gives Republicans the power to cancel business in the chamber they don’t control, while rolling up victories in the chamber they do control. How is Rep. Clark using her influence within the caucus, with the Speaker?
House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (MA-2) is indeed pushing for remote voting, or at least remote-voting-by-proxy:
Ultimately, there was resistance from Republican leaders. The speaker, to her credit, chose to continue these conversations for a few more weeks. A bipartisan task force has been formed to examine these issues further, and I’m proud to be a part of this effort. I have always believed that whenever possible, any changes to House rules should be bipartisan. I still believe that today.
Inaction, however, is simply not an option. The need to adapt is urgent. Experts have made clear that even if the crush of coronavirus lessens in the immediate future, this pandemic could come back even stronger in the fall. I don’t want to look back and wish we had made changes now.
But for our “powerful” Rules Committee Chair, what’s the bottom line? If “inaction is simply not an option”, will the Dems go without GOP approval, if the GOP decides that they’d just as soon shut down the House? What’s McGovern’s and Pelosi’s deadline?
Why do all of these supposedly powerful people — Pelosi, Clark, McGovern — not use their power decisively in a crisis? Wherefore this learned helplessness?
The Republicans are quite good at working a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose strategy, and Congressional Democrats are easy marks for it every time. Since the Democrats took the House, constituents in Massachusetts are in a position of relative influence. When exactly does that pay off?
I’ll hand it off to David Roberts here, talking about the Dems’ leverage with the ruthless McConnell:
Democrats don’t like this kind of power politics. They are accustomed to trying to win the approval of referees, trying to get points for being reasonable and responsible and open to compromise. They are so accustomed to it that they haven’t noticed there are no refs anymore. The pundits and talking heads they fear have no power. There’s no one to judge their arguments superior or award them a sportsmanship trophy.
There is only power; there are only outcomes. Behind all the rhetoric, Democrats have one real point of leverage: they can vote for or against. It gives them some power if they are willing to use it.
And they can simply get back to business.
[Long, deep sigh] … And then there’s Richard Neal (MA-1), the “powerful” Ways and Means chair, who takes credit for writing the CARES stimulus bill. As we know, the bill was a Swiss-cheese texture of loopholes for big business to take advantage.
Speaking at a virtual event at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute on April 13, Neal boasted that Ways and Means, under his leadership, “wrote much of the CARES Act.”
In gathering expert advice, he said, “I immediately sought out Bob Rubin.” He also reached out to Hank Paulson, Bush’s Treasury Secretary, on whose watch the economy collapsed, as well as Steve Rattner, a notable Wall Street Democrat.
That’s just not the first place I’d look for advice on how to help the newly-vulnerable folks of western Mass. Again, you have to wonder about the gilded circles that Richie Neal runs in.