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Progressives to Nancy Pelosi: Keep Wall Street Democrats Away From Powerful Committee Seats

"As the Democratic Party's base and Americans more generally recognize the importance of instituting programs like Medicare for All and ensuring full employment, reactionary Democrats are holding the party and country back."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds a news conference following the 2018 midterm elections at the Capitol Building on November 7, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Recognizing that merely having a slate of progressive champions on key congressional committees will not be enough if their voices are drowned out by Wall Street Democrats, a coalition of grassroots organizations on Thursday sent a letter calling on presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to significantly limit the number of committee seats given to "members of Congress who have records of working in the service of the corporations."

"The agenda of the Problem Solvers Caucus is to thwart the will of the Democratic voters who elected the new majority to enact a strong progressive agenda centered on the needs of regular Americans rather than the wealthy and powerful."
—Progressive coalition letter

Signed by 19 progressive groups representing millions of Americans, the letter (pdf) specifically calls out Democratic members of the so-called "Problem Solvers Caucus," a bipartisan group of lawmakers backed by the corporate-funded organization No Labels.

"Recent media reports have underlined and made public that the agenda of the Problem Solvers Caucus is to thwart the will of the Democratic voters who elected the new majority to enact a strong progressive agenda centered on the needs of regular Americans rather than the wealthy and powerful," the progressive coalition's letter reads. "Inclusion on key committees or subcommittee leadership positions for Problem Solvers Caucus members and other corporate-aligned members would jeopardize the progress the new Democratic majority in the 116th Congress can make on behalf of the American people."

View a list of Problem Solvers Caucus members here.

"We urge you to limit the seats on the key committees—Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Intelligence, and Ways and Means—as well as subcommittee chairmanships from members of the Problems Solvers Caucus, and other corporate-aligned members of Congress, in order to ensure that the 116th Congress delivers for working people and their families and not Wall Street, monopolistic mega businesses, corporate polluters, or self-interested billionaires," the letter continues.

The coalition's demand comes as grassroots advocacy groups are also urgently pressuring Pelosi to give powerful committee seats to lawmakers like Reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who are committed to advancing Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and other progressive priorities.

As The Intercept first reported earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez is taking on self-described fiscal conservative and Problem Solvers Caucus vice chair Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) for a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, the House's key tax-writing panel.

"As the Democratic Party's base and Americans more generally recognize the importance of instituting programs like Medicare for All and ensuring full employment, reactionary Democrats—frequently aligned with groups like the Problem Solvers Caucus—are holding the party and country back," said David Segal of Demand Progress, one of the groups behind the letter to Pelosi. "We need leadership to put progressives on key committees so they can fight for economic prosperity for everybody, not just corporations and those who are already wealthy."

Read the full letter and its signatories:

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Dear Speaker-Designate Pelosi:

We, the undersigned organizations representing millions of people, write to urge  you, as the incoming Speaker of the House, to limit the membership on key  committees—Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Intelligence, and Ways and Means—of the "Problem Solvers Caucus" and other members of Congress who have records of working in the service of the  corporations and industries these committees are meant to regulate. We also ask you to limit the extent to which such members serve as subcommittee chairs on these and other committees.

Recent media reports have underlined and made public that the agenda of the Problem Solvers Caucus is to thwart the will of the Democratic voters who elected the new majority to enact a strong progressive agenda centered on the needs of regular Americans rather than the wealthy and powerful. Inclusion on key committees or subcommittee leadership positions for Problem Solvers Caucus members and other corporate-aligned members would jeopardize the  progress the new Democratic majority in the 116th Congress can make on behalf of the American people and we believe it is of the utmost importance that you act  to prevent this outcome.

Much has been learned about the funders, intent, and agenda of the Problem Solvers Caucus and their non-profit backers, No Labels. From the ill-conceived  demands of your incoming Speakership—which would have hampered your  ability to be an effective Speaker—it is obvious that their intent is to impede the will of Democratic voters as no such demands were made when Democrats were in the minority. Advancing the interests of powerful corporations and the  extremely wealthy at the expense of the public interest is the raison d'etre for the Problem Solvers Caucus and they should not be allowed to use key committee membership or subcommittee chairmanships to advance this agenda.

As you know, these key committees—Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Intelligence, and Ways and Means—have jurisdiction over a broad set of matters of great import to our organizations and the American public.  Appropriations and Ways and Means are the committees that write must-pass  legislation, so members of these committees have great power to force policy change that the Caucus will have to accept in order to fund the government. The  Energy and Commerce Committee and Financial Services with jurisdiction over  many of our economy's most important sectors and functions, require members who will stand up to the lobbyists from the banking, healthcare, pharmaceutical, energy, and communications industries to ensure those marketplaces work for  Americans and not the lobbyists' employers. The Intelligence committee's work will entail investigations into important questions about the Trump campaign, the administration’s foreign policy priorities and activities and relationships with  foreign governments like Saudi Arabia that the American people demand answer to.

These key committees control much of government policy which affects working people and their families all across the country. We commend your agreement with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to seat 40 percent of these  committees with CPC members as we believe these progressive champions are  eager to make progress for the American people. But this is not enough, as each  member of a committee has a vote and the ability to derail debate. If Democrats are to deliver on the promises made to voters during the 2016 elections, the caucus must effectively advance agenda that will make a difference for regular Americans, and forcefully oppose proposals that would undermine this goal.

Our organizations regularly advocate for matters in the purview of all of these committees, and we know that an influx of like-minded members will facilitate all of our efforts to make our government truly responsive to the needs of its  citizens. From experience, we also know that seating Problem Solvers Caucus members, and others members of Congress with records in service of corporate  interests, on these committees or as subcommittee chairs will stymie the good  work these progressive champions could do on behalf of the American people. For this reason, we urge you to limit the seats on the key committees—Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Intelligence, and Ways and Means—as well as subcommittee chairmanships from members of the Problems Solvers Caucus, and other corporate-aligned members of  Congress, in order to ensure that the 116th Congress delivers for working people and their families and not Wall Street, monopolistic mega businesses, corporate polluters, or self interested billionaires.

Sincerely,

Allied Progress
American Family Voices
Communication Workers of America
Consumer Action
Courage Campaign
CREDO
Daily Kos
Demand Progress Education Fund/Rootstrikers
Freedom to Prosper
Grassroots Collaborative
Next Door Project
Patriotic Millionaires
People's Action Institute
Progress America
Progressive Democrats of America
Revolving Door Project
Take On Wall Street
Social Security Works
Working Families Party

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