Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Pelosi’

Congressional committee assignments are for sale

September 12, 2019

Big-money influence on Congress is nothing new.  It does back to the Gilded Age of the 19th century and before.  House Speaker New Gingrich took it a step further in the 1990s with his “pay to play” system.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually has taken the process a step further.  Each Democratic congressional representative is expected to pay “dues” to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by raising money from donors.  Each committee assignment has a specific posted price.

The political scientist Thomas Ferguson wrote about this eight years ago, and I posted about it then.  Recently Ryan Grim and Aïda Chavez of The Intercept obtained the latest posted prices.

The dues for the 2020 cycle, according to the DCCC dues document, range from $150,000 at the low level to $1,000,000 for the Speaker of the House.  The document lays out the price of particular committee assignments.

Leadership posts for the second-, third-, and fourth-ranking Democrats — currently Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, and Ben Ray Luján — range from $900,000 down to $700,000.

The next tier of leadership, which includes Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos, and others, costs just $575,000. Lower-ranking members of leadership owe between $400,000 and $500,000.

That’s less than the chairs of exclusive committees have to chip in. Those four — Richard Neal, chair of Ways and Means; Frank Pallone, chair of Energy and Commerce; Nita Lowey, chair of Appropriations; and Maxine Waters, chair of Financial Services — owe $600,000 each for their gavels. Neal has paid half of his dues, while Lowey and Pallone have paid just under $200,000. Waters hasn’t made any dues payments yet.

The document also lists a goal for money-raised, which it puts at $1.2 million for each of the four. The dues report claims Waters has raised just $40,500, compared to $3.3 million for Neal, $1.4 million for Pallone, and $160,400 from Lowey. (Neal, Pallone, and Lowey are facing primary challenges.)

On those so-called money committees, like Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce, even freshman members are asked to pay higher dues. That’s because those committees have jurisdiction over effectively every major industry, giving members a leg-up in demanding checks from corporations who need — or oppose — legislation before the panel. It is also valuable for industries to have committee members write letters to agencies they oversee.

Chairs of committees not lucky enough to oversee commercially prosperous industries owe just $300,000 in dues and have a listed goal of raising $300,000, compared to the money committees’ $1.2 million. Indeed, even vice chairs of money committees owe more than chairs of regular committees. Yvette Clarke, vice chair of Energy and Commerce, and Terri Sewell, vice chair of Ways and Means, owe $400,000 each. Subcommittee chairs on money panels owe as much as chairs of plebeian committees: $300,000.

An individual seat on a money committee, meanwhile, will run a member of Congress $250,000.  Sad sack rank-and-filers not privileged enough to sit on a money committee owe just $150,000.

Source: The Intercept

Democratic congressional representatives are expected do spend several hours a day on the phone, soliciting donations.  There also is a “points” system by which representatives can earn credit by supporting the party through action rather than money.


Why Pelosi is the big winner in the mid-terms

November 7, 2018

Nancy Pelosi is the big winner in the 2018 election campaign.  Her faction remained in control of the Democratic Party, despite a progressive insurgency, and then went on to win a majority in the House of Representatives.

She’ll become Speaker of the House again, making her the highest-ranking Democratic elected official.  This is a better outcome, from my standpoint, than a Republican victory in the House races would have been, but it means that the House will not become a forum for proposing changes for the better.

Pelosi has said that she will try to restore “pay as you go” budgeting—which means no big infrastructure program and no Medicare for All.

Nancy Pelosi

It opens the door to another “grand compromise” proposal, in which Democrats offer to cut back on Social Security and Medicare for future retirees in return for repeal of recent tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

Control of the House gives the Democratic leadership an opportunity to challenge the Pentagon budget and some of the ongoing wars, since all appropriations bills must originate in the House.

There might be some resistance to supporting Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, but otherwise I expect Democrats in Congress to keep on voting for whatever military spending Trump asks for.

There is a fundamental structural problem in American politics, which is that there are three main political factions trying to operate through a two-party system.  One is the right wing, represented by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.  Another is the center, represented by Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.  The third is the left, represented by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The Trump Republicans now dominate their party.  Centrist opponents to Trump have been driven out.  The Pelosi Democrats are still the dominant faction in their party.  The Sanders Democrats have not been crushed and may yet win in the long run.

The problem is, from my standpoint, is that even Bernie Sanders is not a peace candidate.  He is not as bloodthirsty as Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, but he has never questioned the overall goal of U.S. worldwide military domination or considered how to shift from a war to a peace economy.

So long as the United States is on a permanent war footing, the resources won’t be available to meet the nation’s real needs.

On the whole, the country is somewhat better off—less badly off—than it was before the election.  But Donald Trump still controls 2.5 of the three branches of government, and his opponents need a better vision than putting things back the way they were in 2014.


Finish line for health care reform

March 22, 2010

Barring the unforeseen, the health reform bill will be enacted into law with a final vote by the Senate and signing by President Obama.  I am (1) disappointed that the law is not better and (2) amazed that anything at all was done, considering the obstacle course in the way.

The reformers had to get not only a majority vote in the House of Representatives and 60 votes (!)  in the U.S. Senate, against the opposition of not only lobbyists and vested interests, but the disinformation spread by a powerful and partisan news network and a Republican opposition using every possible procedural technique to sabotage the process.  The credit for success belongs to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as much as anyone.  She stood firm when members of the White House staff were talking about giving in, and held together a Democratic coalition of progressives, New Democrats and right-to-lifers.

What we have gotten is an extremely modest bill, like Governor Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan, but one which provides a basis for further progress. It provides that nobody can be refused health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or will lose health insurance because they change jobs, or have their health insurance run out because their medical bills exceed a set limit.

In order for this to be feasible, it’s necessary to require everybody to be insured.  Otherwise people would wait until they got sick to sign up for health insurance.  The bill provides subsidies for people who can’t afford insurance.  The key question is the limit on increases in health insurance premiums.  Otherwise the subsidies become a pass-through to the insurance industry.

The best way to have expanded coverage while holding down costs would have been a single-payer system, such as Medicare for everyone.  The second-best way would have been a public option, which would give people an alternative to the for-profit private insurance companies and forced the companies to mend their ways or go out of business.  The least desirable way would have been to treat insurance companies like regulated utilities, and forced them to get government approval for rate increases.

What the bill does is require insurance companies to pay out 80 percent to 85 percent of premiums (depending on size) to pay medical bills.  That still leaves 15 to 20 percent of premiums serving no medically useful purpose, since there is no need for insurance companies in a universal system.  But that is the price that had to be paid to get a bill enacted at all.  Similarly, there is no control on drug costs; similarly, insurance companies continue to be exempt from anti-trust laws. Another control on premium costs will be the “exchanges,” where people will be able to compare costs and benefits. I hope these things work.

The signing for the health care reform bill will not, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, is not the end of the struggle for universal health care, but it perhaps is the end of the beginning.  Drug companies and insurance companies will be working to water down and weaken the bill, as will the Republican congressional leadership.  Progressives should be working just as hard to strengthen it.

P.S. Click on this for a different view of the health reform bill and what needs to be done now.

P.P.S. (March 23, 2010). Click on this and this and this for commentary on what President Obama had to give up to the drug and insurance companies to get the bill passed.