New Democrats Want a Piece of the Policy Pie

Coalition arranges task forces around top issues

Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer hopes the task forces gives the New Democrats a chance to help hone policy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer hopes the task forces gives the New Democrats a chance to help hone policy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted February 2, 2017 at 10:18am

Republicans are in control of Congress, but the House’s New Democrat Coalition does not plan to sit by and let the GOP generate all the policy ideas on issues like taxes, infrastructure and cybersecurity. 

In continuing with their effort to be leaders on policy issues and find potential areas of bipartisan compromise, the New Democrats are launching new task forces designed to generate policy solutions for issues on the GOP’s congressional agenda, as well as policy areas that may not get as much traction in a Republican-controlled Congress, Rep. Derek Kilmer, the coalition’s vice chairman of policy, told Roll Call.

“Certainly in the Obama administration, there were a lot of opportunities to partner with the administration,” the Washington Democrat said. “It’s obviously a different ballgame now. And yet our desire to build an economy that works better for everybody continues. So in a world where we’re in the deep minority, dealing with an administration that has obviously staked out some extreme positions, it causes us to evaluate how to approach that.”

The policy tasks forces, which will be led by members with expertise in the various issue areas, are part of the New Democrats’ effort to support and uplift new leadership within the coalition, according to a New Democrat aide. For the 115th Congress, the coalition implemented term limits for its chairmen and expanded its leadership team.

“It’s likely you’re going to see legislative vehicles move — things like infrastructure, tax reform — where there may be short term opportunities to engage and show thought leadership,” Kilmer said. New Democrats want to be “opportunistic” in hopes that some of their policy priorities get incorporated into the legislation the GOP is moving, he said.

The task forces will also focus on some areas that are not top GOP priorities — “things like campaign finance and ethics reform, kind of good-government issues, or issues around the future of work and how technology impacts people in this changing economy,” Kilmer said.

The initial task forces the coalition is rolling out will likely be supplemented by more later. Kilmer said the co-chairmen of the panels will largely be people who’ve shown interest.

“The neat thing is we’ve got folks who want to step up and who are interested in these policy areas and want to drive some policy thinking,” he said.

New Democrat leaders are not setting specific deadlines or benchmarks for the task forces.

“It’s not a top-down approach,” Kilmer said. “This is a bottom-up approach where members are going to kind of drive the outcomes. But … one of the common denominators among the coalition is folks want to get to outcomes. … And so, I think each one of the task forces is going to drive impact in their own unique way.”

The task force rosters are:

  1. 21st Century Infrastructure:

Co-Chairmen: Reps. John Delaney of Maryland, Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, Norma J. Torres of California, and Del. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands

  1. Cybersecurity:

Co-Chairmen: Reps. Derek Kilmer of Washington, Kathleen Rice of New York, and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.

  1. Housing:

Co-Chairmen: Denny Heck of Washington, Juan Vargas of California, and Stephanie Murphy of Florida.

  1. Future of Work:

Co-Chairmen: Jared Polis of Colorado, Bill Foster of Illinois, and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

  1. Tax Reform and Fiscal Responsibility:

Co-Chairmen: Terri A. Sewell of Alabama, Don Beyer Jr. of Virginia, and Brad Schneider of Illinois.

  1. Affordable and Accessible Health Care:

Co-Chairmen: Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Ami Bera of California, and Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire.

  1. Global Competitiveness & Trade

Co-Chairmen: Rick Larsen of Washington & Gregory W. Meeks of New York.