After days of criticism of the Republican caucus for naming all white men to lead House committees, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stressed that the Democratic caucus will be majority women and minorities for the first time in congressional history.
“Our caucus looks like America – and so do our ranking members,” Pelosi said yesterday in announcing the top Dems on the House committees.
Some are familiar faces, such as Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on the Budget Committee, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) facing off with Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and John Conyers (D-Mich.) on the Judiciary Committee.
Pelosi named seven women as ranking members, including the first women to fill that spot on the Financial Services and Appropriations committees: Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), respectively.
“Congresswoman Waters is no stranger to bold leadership in the name of working families throughout Los Angeles and across the country. On the Financial Services Committee, she will build on her record of service to ensure the voices of mothers, seniors, and the middle class have a place at the table,” Pelosi said.
“Both women bring decades of experience and a commitment to public service to their new positions,” she added. “By increasing the diversity in our leadership, we will help ensure that all Americans are represented here in the people’s House.”
Waters, also chief deputy whip, was investigated by the Ethics Committee for three years on charges that she helped a bank where her husband was director get federal aid. She was cleared in late September.
After days of negative headlines about the slate of GOP chairmen, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) named Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) to lead the House Administration Committee, even though she last served on the panel in 109th Congress.
“From ensuring the House runs efficiently and smoothly, to making Congress more open and accessible, Candice has a big job ahead as chairman of the House Administration Committee,” Boehner said. “In her new post, Candice will provide the leadership needed to keep operating costs down, save taxpayer dollars, and help lawmakers use new technology to better engage with their constituents. And her experience as Michigan secretary of state will be invaluable given the committee’s oversight of campaign finance and election laws.”
The current chairman is Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), who was defeated in his re-election race. In picking Miller, Boehner passed over the next senior member of the committee, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.).
Miller had been bucking for the top spot on the Homeland Security Committee, but Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) got that job.
Nineteen Republican women will serve in the House in the 113th Congress, down from 24 this Congress.
The criticism over Boehner’s committee appointments isn’t just based on gender, either. Conservatives Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) were removed from the Budget Committee, and Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Walt Jones (R-N.C.) were removed from Financial Services — reportedly for not being team players with the Boehner operation.
“What message does leadership’s heavy-handedness send? It says that independent thinking won’t be tolerated, not even 5% of the time,” Amash wrote on his Facebook page afterward. “It says that voting your conscience won’t be respected.”