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Caucus Acts Progressively With New Hire

The Progressive Caucus — the largest constituency group among House Democrats — has for the first time hired a senior-level staffer to help better coordinate the group’s message and wield more influence in the increasingly diverse full Caucus.

The 55-member Progressive Caucus has tapped Bill Goold, a longtime Capitol Hill aide and former AFL-CIO staffer, to serve as policy adviser. Goold starts his new position today as the only full-time, dedicated Progressive Caucus aide.

Goold’s hiring by the progressives comes as other ideological groups within the Democratic Caucus work — both formally and informally — to become more influential as well. The progressives say Goold will work with different members to define their goals and issues and amplify their agenda within the broader House Democratic Caucus.

“We need to coordinate our issues, we need to define what our goals are and what the issues are for the 109th Congress,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), a co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus.

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), another co-chairwoman, said hiring Goold was a top priority for the progressive leaders this Congress, and a move that she believes will help improve and build on the organization’s effectiveness. She said the progressives recognize they need to “be very aggressive” and must be more active to influence the overall direction of the Democratic Caucus.

“He’s committed to strengthening the Progressive Caucus,” Lee said. “I believe we need the proper coordination with the Democratic Caucus, the other caucuses and outside organizations and we need one person to help us execute our overall agenda.”

Associated with hiring the full-time staffer, the Progressive Caucus will also work on focusing its issue agenda for this Congress. Woolsey said those items could include media fairness, economic security and a plan to bring troops home from Iraq.

“The Progressive Caucus appeals to the Democratic base [of the party] and I believe our base is looking for our voice,” Woolsey said. “We have it, but it’s kind of a gun shot or a scatter shot over the Congress.”

Goold most recently served as the legislative director for Rep. Rush Holt (N.J.). He also worked as a legislative assistant to Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa), and as staff director for Rep. Bernie Sanders when the Vermont Independent chaired the Progressive Caucus. He also spent two years working as a senior policy adviser at the AFL-CIO.

The Progressive Caucus represents the liberal wing of the full Caucus, and historically has been and continues to be the most dominant ideological group of House Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has long been a member of the group, as have other prominent leaders.

In recent Congresses, however, the centrist and conservative wings have worked to build up their influence. Those factions have felt newly empowered given the changing political landscape and key victories by moderate Democrats in conservative states.

The centrist New Democrat Coalition, for one, recently announced a major reorganization of its group that includes new participation requirements and a refocus of its core issues. That move was an effort to re-energize its group and promote a centrist agenda in the Caucus.

Sources throughout the Progressive Caucus said the hiring of Goold in no way is a response to moves by other groups, including the centrists, to shore up the power base among the House Democrats. The progressives have discussed the idea for a couple of years, and recruiting has been in the works for several months, sources indicated.

“This has been talked about for years,” said an aide to a progressive Democrat. “It’s great it’s finally happening. Bill will help identify opportunities for the Progressive Caucus and hopefully the Caucus as a whole.”

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