How the eccentric liberal icon of the House won over a multitude of centrist allies
Democratic leaders withdrew the bill hours before the House left town for its August recess. But DeLauro’s never-say-die mentality during a grueling credits process that could have been a disaster for the caucus shows just how much she’s shattered assumptions about how she would govern. The eccentric Democrat – recognizable by her cheeky rhetoric, her mixed-pattern outfit, and her cropped purple striped hair – doesn’t lead the powerful committee like the die-hard liberal she is often presented as. Instead, she rules from the middle.
“Before being a leader, his job was not to bring people together, his job was to make his case,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. “I think she made her arguments in these bills, but she also listened to other interest groups” and incorporated those views, he added.
DeLauro’s ability to unite the caucus, which could only lose four votes on the floor, was in part thanks to his creation of an intense behind-the-scenes whip operation which, according to a person familiar with the process, had a “mentality of war room ”. “By working closely with Hoyer (D-Md.) And Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (DS.C.), it also allowed him to frown as he dragged several more bills to the finish line than not even his own colleagues had foreseen it.
A long-time member of the credit committee and trumpeter of the “Regular Order,” Hoyer said he made it clear to DeLauro from the start that if they could work together to unite the caucus, he would make sure the talk time was available to spend as many bill credits as they could. Working in various corners of the caucus where they had strong personal relationships, the two ensured that even the most controversial political issues were dealt with before floor votes.
“I think she’s very, very skillful and has a new role and she’s playing that role,” Hoyer said in an interview.
After three decades in power, the 78-year-old Democrat heads the most powerful panel in Congress at a breakneck pace, juggling calls with her colleagues after 10:30 p.m. And before the votes on the ground, DeLauro and his team handed out thick packets to every Democrat, with each member’s top five priorities included in the bill.
“Watching her right now is all she does: till the soil, or do it through the phones. And it’s paying off, and she’s got a lot of goodwill, ”said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), A progressive who sits on the credits panel.
The rise of the Connecticut Democrat has not been without friction. Privately, some of his colleagues say his own political interests sometimes lead to turf wars with other committee chairs, such as when Democrats drafted a huge Covid bill last year dealing with some of the legacy issues. DeLauro, such as paid family leave and the child tax credit.
DeLauro had spent decades working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of his closest allies, to expand the tax credit and dramatically reduce child poverty. This expansion, although temporary, took effect in July.
In the past, some committee members viewed it as abrasive; DeLauro has often fought with Republicans over spending hikes and sometimes privately with top Democrats, including Pelosi, on strategic calls.
But with Democrats now in control of all of Washington, DeLauro’s colleagues say they broadly approved of how she used her first, and possibly only, hammer chance to usher in the party’s long-standing goals. This includes a return to earmarking after a ten-year ban and a substantial increase in domestic spending in all areas.
This year, DeLauro also decided to remove the Hyde Amendment, a 45-year ban on Medicaid spending on abortion, despite the high chances that the Senate would agree to remove it. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Another appropriation official and progressive who was on Hill staff when the policy was first created, called the effort “a long time ago” and “Problem of racial justice”.
The debate could have turned sour. Instead, the only Democrat who opposed it in committee, socially conservative representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), backed the final measure on the floor. No other Democrat opposed it.
“She knows where I am,” Cuellar said, noting that DeLauro had never pressured her anyway. “There is this mutual respect. Abortion, oil and gas, guns – some things she understands and she respects. “
The senior Texan’s personal politics couldn’t be further from those of DeLauro, a shameless feminist raised on “the bloody sport of New Haven politics.”
In a brief interview last week, DeLauro summed up his approach: “This is what it is about, people’s personal values. And that’s how they vote.
Part of DeLauro’s success – according to her main rival in last year’s presidential race, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) – is that she achieved a campaign goal they had. both shared in making every Democrat feel invested in the spending. invoices.
“Normally, the credit process is very opaque. So it’s to her credit that she opened it, ”said Wasserman Schultz, who assisted DeLauro as one of the 12 chairmen of the subcommittee. “We were all on the bridge. ”
Another key point: DeLauro is the first credit president in a decade with the power to increase her bill amounts, since the 2011 spending caps agreement ended this year.
And bombastic as it sounds, DeLauro has developed close relationships over the years with his GOP counterparts, such as Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
“She is a very competent president. She certainly knows her bills and the process, and I think she responds to her caucus, ”said Cole, who has spent years working with DeLauro on health and education issues. Still, the senior Republican official added, “Now they’re doing things that I know can never happen.”
The only setback DeLauro faced this week, over the sprawling DOJ bill, was almost a success. The bill stood ready for enforcement until a group of police unions handed DeLauro a last-minute missive denouncing the terms of some police grants.
Representative Matt Cartwright, the Pennsylvania Democrat overseeing the bill, said he was stunned by the sudden opposition, after his panel added $ 65 million to community-based policing grants this year.
“I was surprised by this at the eleventh hour,” Cartwright said, noting that he had spent six weeks “up close and personal” with Excel spreadsheets on the invoice.
Yet DeLauro privately insists she will get the bill when the House returns in September, despite caucus skepticism. And Hoyer agreed, telling POLITICO they were planning another attempt to pass the bill next month.
“Rosa is very, very hardworking and very, very focused,” Hoyer said. “Intense would be a word that would not be inappropriate. “