House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in Democrat House leadership quietly bumped Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) off the powerful congressional panel that oversees America’s financial institutions, a report reveals.
The instance with Porter, who had regularly criticized House Financial Services Committee chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), presents a possible looming rift within the House Democrat conference which usually falls in line behind its party’s leaders easily.
The friction began when the powerful and secretive House Steering Committee–run by the Speaker and her allies–removed Porter from the Financial Services Committee this year. Porter’s removal by the Steering Committee was, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times, for a simple reason: Porter flowered into a force of her own, overshadowing Waters while garnering praise from House progressive stars such as “squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), for attempting to “change the system that her colleagues have been operating under for years,” which particularly undermines committee leadership.
Porter could not have been kicked off the Financial Services Committee without Pelosi’s approval, since the Steering Committee which determines members’ committee assignments is controlled by her and her allies. Waters also holds sway with the Steering Committee’s authority to designate committee assignments.
“So many of us, regardless of ideology, run on ‘shaking up Washington.’ But then when you actually come here, there’s a lot of consequences for doing that,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who sat on the Financial Services Committee with Porter. Ocasio-Cortez still has her seat on the Financial Services Committee.
The hushed tension between the two factions spilled publicly in a Los Angeles Times story Tuesday. “Democrats loved Katie Porter when she bashed Trump. Now she is making them squirm,” the headline reads.
This comes after significant friction with Waters last Congress, where Waters denied Porter’s efforts to use posters during Financial Services committee hearings. While Waters would not let Porter use them during the hearing, she went on late night national television shows to display them anyway. From the LA Times report:
The first time Porter tried to use a poster board in the committee, Waters upheld a Republican objection, citing committee rules. When Porter came back to another hearing with a “Financial Services bingo” board, Waters again told her to take it down. “We’ve talked about this before,” she said.
Porter balked at Waters’ ruling. “Are we adding additional committee rules at this time?” asked Porter, whose use of such props was not an issue on the House Oversight Committee. In a show of her emerging political star power, Porter eventually got to display the bingo poster — on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
Indeed, some in the establishment media have noticed Porter’s removal from the committee by leadership, believing her to be singled out among those who sought a waiver to serve on multiple committees. The Democrat House rules created by Pelosi maintain that members of four different so-called “exclusive” committees may not, unless they receive a waiver of permission from the Speaker, serve on other committees because of the time and commitment required on those panels. The four “exclusive” committees in the House Democrat conference are Financial Services, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Appropriations–four of the most powerful panels in the lower chamber of Congress. Porter sought such a waiver from Pelosi.
“As the only single mother of young children in our Democratic Caucus, and an expert on consumer debt, mortgage lending, and bankruptcy, I bring deep knowledge and great passion to issues of economic justice and fairness,” Porter pleaded to Pelosi in a letter.
Pelosi ultimately denied the waiver. Only Porter and one other Democrat were refused.
Porter disagreed with the decision. “The goal should be to get members on the committee who stay, year after year, who will make this a primary committee and build up expertise over time,” Porter said, according to the LA Times report.
While these intra-Democrat skirmishes represent a degree of infighting intrigue inside Pelosi’s palace, they are nowhere near as rambunctious–or public–as GOP infighting nearly a decade ago that paved the way for the removal of now former Speaker John Boehner from office.
When Boehner, right after the 2012 election where now former President Barack Obama defeated former Massachusetts governor and now Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), removed four House Republicans from their committee assignments, it nearly cost him his job three weeks later. At the beginning of December 2012, Boehner undercut Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) and then-Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Justin Amash of Michigan. At the time, Amash was a Republican but he years later left the GOP and became an independent because of his disagreements with now former President Donald Trump. But back then, he and the other three who Boehner kicked off their committee assignments were rabble rousers causing issues for the establishment Republicans–which led to Boehner stripping them of their committee assignments. In response, a group of more than a dozen House Republicans led what was the first of three coup attempts against Boehner to try to remove him from the Speakership in January 2013. While Boehner survived that coup attempt, and a subsequent one in January 2015, by the fall of 2015 Boehner fell and was forced to resign by House conservatives.
House Democrats, unlike Republicans, are less powerful under caucus rules, which may lead Pelosi’s members to more readily absorb her disciplinarian mandates when the Republicans would not so easily just take similar punishment. And though there are policy differences within Pelosi’s caucus on everything from coronavirus relief spending and the adjoining $15 minimum wage hike to immigration to how to approach banks and financial policy to foreign policy and more, the party’s disagreements have mostly avoided the incessant establishment media coverage that GOP infighting draws.
The Democrat Party, though, is not without its serious and deepening divisions. Issues are also seen in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where squabbling over the existing filibuster continues to plague Democrats, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is currently a “no” vote when it comes to pushes by the left to nuke the filibuster. The filibuster rule requires 60 votes to pass legislation out of the Senate, rather than a simple majority of 51 votes. That means Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer needs to win 10 Republicans to back a legislative package to pass it out of his chamber unless he is able to change the Senate’s rules, something he cannot do without Manchin or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) who is also publicly opposed to the nuclear option.
Manchin’s filibuster position has caused public displays of disunity in the Senate, putting pressure on Senate leadership to pass coronavirus relief legislation via reconciliation, a tactic that allows the Senate Democrats to pass a bill with a budget gimmick where they only need 51 votes to get it through. For instance, on Monday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) made news when he was caught on a “hot mic,” saying the Senate will “most likely have to use reconciliation” to pass President Joe Biden’s infrastructure spending agenda.