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Five questions for Rep. Mark Pocan

Progressive Caucus co-chair said it’s hard to work with president ‘because you don’t know which Trump you will get on any given day’

Rep. Mark Pocan, in his fourth term representing the liberal college town of Madison, Wisconsin, is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which represents 94 House Democrats. Here is an edited transcript of a recent interview with CQ Roll Call that was first published in the Feb. 24 issue of CQ Magazine.

Q. In 2019, you saw overwhelming Democratic majorities for bills that have split the party in the past: on gun control, climate change and labor rights, among other things. Do you think a future Democratic government would make them law?

A. Yes, and I don’t give credit to Congress, but to the American people. Many of these issues come back to the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders. And now people see that when it comes to raising the minimum wage, health care as a universal right, dealing with climate change, dealing with gun violence, 60-80 percent are in favor.

[Democrats ‘got completely rolled’ in NDAA talks, critics say]

Q. Are there bills that have not gone to the floor because of moderate Democrats’ opposition?

A.  Not that I can think of. We have operated this Congress off of 10 top bills that we passed. That was much of what we ran on. In the big picture, those 10 bills defined what we as a group said we were for.

Q. Can you work with President Trump in 2020?

A.  I think we’ve tried to work with Trump. Nancy [Pelosi] made a good faith effort on [the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement]. We see a prescription drug pricing bill as a place we could work together. Infrastructure still has some potential. No one is saying you can’t work with him, but it’s hard because you don’t know which Trump you will get on any given day.

Q. Should Congress restore earmarks?

A.  I think among members, if you took a private vote poll, it would be 80-plus percent, if not 90 percent, in favor. I know through the Modernization [of Congress] Committee, there have been very frank conversations. It’s just a matter of leadership in both parties agreeing not to politicize it.

Q. Have the courts served as a check on President Trump during his presidency?

A.  When we had subpoenas for the administration, the only way to get them was to go to court, and it could take months or years. No other president has been as arrogant. Those courts weren’t great vehicles for us. In that way, the administration has used the courts to slow down oversight.

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