Friday, June 15, 2018

The Democratic Fight Over House Leadership


You read about all these Democratic candidates who say they're not going to vote for Pelosi for Speaker. It's almost de rigueur for them to say it sometime during their campaign. She laughs and says she has the votes anyway. Does she? There have been more than a few discontented right-of-center Blue Dogs and New Dems already in Congress who say she should step now, primarily ambitious malcontents from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party like Kathleen Rice from Long Island. But lately enough normal Democrats are starting to whisper about her time being up as well. I don't know if she actually has the votes anymore.

Some members have told me she's trying to broker a deal that would allow her to become Speaker again if she promises to step down after 100 days and retire-- allowing for a special election is San Francisco with her daughter Christine likely to follow in her footsteps. (caveat: I like Christine; I don't like political dynasties).

On Wednesday, a normal, garden variety Democrat and heretofore Pelosi backer, Brian Higgins (D-NY), told the Buffalo News that he will not back Pelosi for another term as Democratic leader, complaining about the lack of a clear Democratic agenda as an alternative to Señor Trumpanzee and the increasingly radicalized GOP. He claims that his opinion is widely shared but only whispered. I've found the same thing, complicated by how so many people feel like her and feels personal loyalty towards her.
Higgins cited the lack of a clear Democratic agenda as an alternative to President Trump, as well as Pelosi's lack of interest in his bills to expand Medicare and invest in infrastructure, as the key sources of his frustration.

"She's listening, but this is my conclusion: She's aloof, frenetic and misguided," Higgins said.

..."I'm giving voice to a frustration that I hear every single day," he said. "It's members. I don't want to call anybody out. But this is the conversation that is taking place."

Higgins' said his disappointment in Pelosi stems in large part from what he sees as his party's weak efforts to develop a compelling alternative agenda to that of Trump, a Republican.

"Our leadership is out of touch with what is going on not only in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan but in Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Hamburg, Orchard Park and Lancaster," he said. "Democratic voters at least and voters writ large feel politically homeless, and it's because we are not offering something affirmative to give people hope and something to invest in, in the way that we want to do things."

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, teamed up last July to promote a Democratic agenda called "A Better Deal." The effort calls for increased federal investment in infrastructure, public housing and education, a series of political and labor reforms and an effort to reduce prescription drug prices.

Higgins stressed that he did not mean to criticize Schumer or his role in that effort, but the Buffalo congressman had harsh words for A Better Deal.

"It's thematic, it's well-intentioned, but nobody's buying it," Higgins said of the Democratic agenda. "It's Washington-speak."

Democrats would be better off, Higgins said, if they stressed two issues that he said aren't stressed strongly enough in A Better Deal: health care and infrastructure investment.

Most notably, he mentioned the bill that he introduced last year that would allow Americans from the ages of 50 to 64 to buy into Medicare, the federal health care program for Americans over age 65.

He said Pelosi and her staff have shown little interest in the bill.

"They say it does not comply with the essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act," Higgins said. "That is not true."

...Higgins argued that his Medicare expansion bill would offer health care to a particularly vulnerable population: middle-aged Americans who are coping with huge health insurance price increases because of Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Every congressional district is home to approximately 14,000 such people, he said.

In addition, he said the bill would stabilize Medicare's finances, given that it would bring younger, healthier Americans into the system.

Higgins' Medicare expansion bill has 49 cosponsors, where his bill to invest $1.5 trillion in American infrastructure has none.

A Better Deal includes a proposal for a smaller, $1 trillion infrastructure plan, but Higgins said Democrats aren't doing a very good job of selling it to the public.

There's little mention of the fact that a huge infrastructure bill would create upwards of 34.5 million jobs and add 1.5 percentage points to the annual growth rate, thereby boosting the economy and cutting the federal deficit, Higgins argued.

"So infrastructure pays for itself and investment helps fund all the other Democratic priorities: education, health care and the environment," he said.

Higgins singled out Pelosi for failing to clearly articulate a Democratic agenda, and mentioned several current House members as possible alternatives to the current leader: Current Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Rep. Karen Bass of California and Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens-- a close friend of Higgins.
Karen Bass was elected Speaker of the California State Assembly in 2008, only the second woman to serve in that position. So she knows how to do it. Rated "A" by ProgressivePunch, she has one of the best voting records in Congress. Pelosi doesn't want to leave the speakership to Hoyer, which would be like leaving the speakership to K Street. The only thing worse would be leaving the speakership to Wall Street-- and that the most likely post-Pelosi Speaker: Joe Crowley, a crook, a machine hack, a Wall Street puppet and, until he decided to run for party-wide leadership, head of the Wall Street owned and operated New Dems. I can't think of anyone worse.

But he appears to have it sewn up. Most Democrats in the House are either enthusiastic about him or resigned to what he's made them all think is inevitable. What can we do? Crowley is virtually unknown in his own district where he's like an absentee landlord. He and his family live in Virginia. He has a credible primary challenge in less than 2 weeks (June 26). His opponent, Alexandria Ocasio, is more of the district than he is. And she's making a strong grassroots attempt to dislodge him. If she wins, he won't be Speaker-- and Wall Street will lose it's biggest patsy among House Democrats. Yesterday, Lee Fang, published a brilliant piece in The Intercept, How People Close The Joe Crowley Have Gotten Rich While The Queens Boss Has Risen In Congress. His rise to the speakership could be another death knell for the Democratic Party. The crooks may be tolerated-- bad enough-- but they should never be the top man.

The rise of Congressman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., has coincided with lucrative lobbying contracts for his younger brother, John Crowley, an attorney who goes by the first name Sean, and previously specialized in wills and estate law.

Sean Crowley serves as a partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, a powerhouse law firm with offices in Albany, New York City, and Washington, D.C., that advertises its ability to connect clients with congressional leadership.

Over the last decade, clients with interests before Congress have retained Sean Crowley through his lobbying firm, paying more than $4.5 million to influence and monitor government policies, according to a review of contracts by The Intercept.

Clients in recent years have included Oracle, AbbVie, NBCUniversal, Juniper Systems, New York Community Bancorp, Abbott Labs, and Elections Systems & Software.

In many cases, the interests of Sean Crowley’s clients have overlapped with his elder brother’s legislative and political work.

Earlier this year, Joe Crowley voted in favor of President Donald Trump’s effort to repeal a rule established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau designed to prevent racial discrimination in the auto loan industry.

The legislation was heavily promoted by the National Automobile Dealers Association, the New York affiliate of which retains Sean Crowley as a lobbyist on regulatory issues, including city rules meant to curb predatory lending practices.

In 2013, Joe Crowley helped award $10 million in federal assistance to the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative, a merchants association in the Bronx that retained Sean Crowley as a lobbyist.

In 2009, both Crowley brothers worked to assist the life insurance settlement industry. A few months after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Joe Crowley, newly empowered with his first major leadership post at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a perch on the powerful committee dealing with tax legislation, traveled to Orlando, Florida, to address hundreds of financial representatives.

Joe Crowley, speaking to the Life Insurance Settlement Association’s annual meeting, reassured executives, and noted that Obama had made no mention of life insurance or life insurance settlements during his recent speech outlining his tax agenda, suggesting the audience might be spared from any future tax hikes.

“I think for your industry, that is a good thing,” said Crowley. “It doesn’t mean that you’re out of the woods, but it’s a good thing.”

The congressman encouraged the attendees to contact Democratic lawmakers on the Ways and Means Committee and continue to lobby to share their views.

The friendly chat coincided with a lucrative contract for Crowley’s younger brother, Sean, who was retained by the Life Insurance Settlement Association earlier that year to influence tax legislation on Capitol Hill. Sean Crowley’s lobbying firm, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, went on to collect $140,000 on behalf of the life insurance settlement client.

The engagement with the life insurance settlement lobby also provided a lift to Joe Crowley. He was the largest recipient of Life Insurance Settlement Association political action committee donations during the 2010 election cycle.

...A report last year in the New York Post revealed that Joe Crowley has also paid nearly $70,000 in campaign funds to a company owned by Sean, called Killean Enterprises LLC. Joe Crowley claimed the money was rent for a campaign office, though the space owned by the younger Crowley brother is outside the district.

Before working as a lobbyist, Sean served as an attorney at a firm called Crowley, Crowley & Kaufman, a partnership with Scott Kaufman, the treasurer of Joe Crowley’s political action committee.

Joe Crowley has faced years of headlines charging that he engages in nepotism and unethical political patronage. As the boss of the Queens Democratic Party, he has nominated associates to the borough election commission, helped allies win election to the New York City Council, and appointed family friends to the Queens Surrogate’s Court.

The court appointments have gained increasing scrutiny after reports that associates of Joe Crowley are routinely selected as court-appointed guardians who have earned millions of dollars processing the estates of residents who pass away without establishing a will. Gerard Sweeney, an official at the Queens Democratic Party and a Crowley lieutenant, has raked in over $30 million administering estates through his position as an administration attorney at the Surrogate’s Court, which he won through his relationship with Joe Crowley.

Before becoming a lobbyist, Sean Crowley also served as a court-appointed guardian. Kaufman has continued to serve as one, earning around $550,000 from work assigned through the Surrogate’s Court. Notably, Kaufman now faces a state ethics probe for potentially violating court administration rules on compensation.

...The convergence of business and politics in the Queens Democratic machine reflects Joe Crowley’s ascent through the ranks of House Democratic leadership.

Joe Crowley has gathered power through high-level connections with well-placed political figures and business leaders. The previous lawmaker to serve in his seat, Rep. Thomas Manton, D-N.Y., another Queens Democratic Party boss, quietly selected Crowley as his successor just before the legal filing deadline in 1998, while deceiving the public and claiming he would run for re-election, a strategy that effectively prevented a competitive election.

In Congress, Joe Crowley has served as a liaison between K Street and the Democratic Party, often mobilizing opposition to bank regulations and other rules opposed by major donors to the party. In 2005, he won a low-ranking position with the DCCC, helping to serve on an outreach council to the business community. But Joe Crowley proved a prodigious fundraiser, helping to raise $5 million for the party, a capability that catapulted him to serve as vice chair of the DCCC four years later.

In 2009, he was elected as the leader of the New Democrat Coalition, a moderate [shame of Lee for referring to conservatives as "moderrates"] caucus that used its political weight to weaken financial reform. The coalition famously threatened to defeat the Dodd-Frank financial reform law unless amendments were added to provide less stringent rules on derivatives and pre-emption of stronger state-based bank regulations. As Joe Crowley and other New Democrat leaders marshaled political support for changes to the bill, the lawmakers went on a rapid fundraising spree, collecting checks from Wall Street banks that were seeking to influence the legislation.

The Office of Congressional Ethics opened an investigation into Joe Crowley’s financial reform-related fundraisers, though the House Ethics Committee, which outranks the OCE and is stacked with fellow lawmakers, later declined to continue the probe.

In the years since passage of financial reform, Joe Crowley has continued to chip away at tough rules on banks while vacuuming up Wall Street donations. In 2011, he co-authored a letter requesting that regulators withdraw and revise the fiduciary rule, a high-profile consumer safeguard designed to ensure that financial planners act only in the interests of their clients. The following year, after meeting with bank executives, Joe Crowley and other New Democrats sent a letter to regulators requesting a delay to the Volcker Rule, one of the signature restrictions on big banks, designed to prevent reckless proprietary trading.

The letters, again, coincided with a steady flow of bank and corporate contributions to Joe Crowley’s political action committees, which include a leadership PAC, a joint fundraising committee, and a personal PAC. Following the 2016 election, Joe Crowley was elected as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, making him the fourth ranking member in leadership.

Now, the Trump administration has signaled that it is working to unravel both provisions of financial reform criticized by Joe Crowley’s letters and is making headway in relaxing other aspects of the Dodd-Frank law. That Joe Crowley previously targeted the same financial regulations that are now in the crosshairs of Trump contrasts sharply with the image the Queens Democrat has portrayed in his campaign advertising, which depict him as a bold opponent of the president.

Despite a relatively conservative voting record while representing a deeply Democratic district-- Crowley not only has been a consistent friend to the banking lobby, but voted for the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and a controversial bill in 2005 to limit consumer bankruptcy protections-- he is currently maneuvering to become the next speaker of the House.

Last month, members of the New Democrat caucus provided strong support for a Republican-led bill to increase the bank threshold for systemic risk assessments, raising the size at which regulators provide additional scrutiny from $50 billion to $250 billion in bank assets.

Facing pressure from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive challenging Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary on June 26, the Queens Democratic Party chief abandoned his moderate pro-bank colleagues. This time, he bucked his New Democrat colleagues and voted against the bill weakening Dodd-Frank. Crowley, facing a tightening race, has begun to spend heavily on television to stave off a major upset, and has agreed to debate Ocasio-Cortez. (It will air this eveningy on NY1 in the 7:00 hour.)
Goal ThermometerAs I tried explain yesterday afternoon-- here-- many Democrats in Congress who want to stay on his good side or because they are afraid of him and because freshmen and sophomores are largely unaware of what a crooked conservative Crowley is are going along with his rise. The co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Mark Pocan, who has the 3rd best voting record in the whole Congress-- and who should be a candidate for Speaker himself-- is actually whipping for Crowley and telling naive progressives that Crowley is trustworthy and a fellow progressive! Pocan is a good man... and he should know better. I would like everyone reading this to please consider helping replace Joe Crowley and the threat he is to the Democratic Party and to the country-- one Trump is already too much-- by contributing to Alexandria Ocasio's campaign. And you can do that by tapping on the Blue America 2018 congressional campaign thermometer on the right and giving what you can.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


At 9:23 AM, Blogger edmondo said...

Pocan is a good man... and he should know better.

He isn't and he does. The Dems are so busy counting the graft they intend to steal that they are forgetting they have to win in November to make it a reality. I can vote against them in 2018 just as easily as I voted against them in 2016.

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As soon as Nancy begins handing out the checks on the floor of the House (as did another former Speaker), all of these brash rebels will grovel at her corrupt heels and lick her high heels.

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, is now going to jail.

The IG report exonerates Hillary Clinton and shows just how bad Comey screwed up.

The GOP is a cult, and Trump is melting down by praising Kim Jong Un, and with his idiot tariffs it's going to be a trade war which the US will lose and hundreds of thousands of jobs are in jeopardy....

...But this is the shit you choose to hang your hat on. Jesus H. Christ in a chariot-driven sidecar.

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

edmondo and marc, well said. Don't get too excited about manafort. he was expendable and might be the ONLY one Mueller puts away... until the pardon.

A note about the "score": "...who has the 3rd best voting record in the whole Congress..."

look, a good "score" is easy for democraps these days. They are numerically irrelevant, so they CAN vote such that progressive punch will score them highly. And even in the quisling congress of 2009, a plurality of them could still score highly because the senate had 12 or so people like evan bayh and harriet reid who prevented all illusory passages by the house by joining the minority in filibustering it.

Your progressive punch scores are almost silly to bring up because of this. Not only this, but a shitload of procedural votes are counted with the same weight as an AYE or NAY on something like tax cuts for the rich or denying 33 million people health insurance.

So... pocan and ro (even Pelosi, but the mask has been off of her for decades) can tabulate some nice "progressive scores" and still be money whoring asshats who, when push comes to shove, will make sure the money gets served.

At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the democraps screw the pooch and actually get a majority, the speaker will be someone who raises a prodigious amount of money from corporations and peanut-butters his/her caucus with it. It's tradition; expected; and fits with the quid pro quo of that chamber.

That much I will guarandamntee you.

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Tonight was their first debate Alexandria was superb

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Democratic agenda called "A Better Deal." (which) calls for increased federal investment in infrastructure, public housing and education, a series of political and labor reforms and an effort to reduce prescription drug prices."

And the reason this met with yawns, if not guffaws, is because nothing could be more disingenuous, and this from the first or second biggest democrap whore currently in office.

This is why all this MFA talk is such horse shit. Even if Higgins or whomever truly favors it, as they should, it cannot and SHALL not pass (nor even see the floor for a vote) a house led by Pelosi or anyone in the succession line NOR a senate led by scummer or anyone in the succession line.

The FUCKING PARTY won't allow MFA nor anything in that "better deal" to even see a vote because their corporate owners won't abide it. And even democrap voters, as fucking stupid as they are, know this.

If democraps wanted ANY of these things, 2009 would have been the time. The wall street depression was in full swing and 10 million jobs and homes had been lost -- and they had all the numbers they needed and more than they'll ever have again.

The democraps of 2009 REFUSED.

Same people there still. What makes you morons think they've changed?

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IF the Corp. Dems regain Midterm majority,IF,and proclaim once again 'Impeachment is off the table'fill in the blanks _________ .


Post a Comment

<< Home