Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sought to join the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the upcoming session of Congress. This committee has always been a coveted assignment for pork barrel reasons. And, presumably, it’s a good gig if you want to impose the Green New Deal.
But Ocasio-Cortez’s bid failed. The spot she was in the running for went to Kathleen Rice, a relatively moderate member of the New York delegation. John Sexton has the details.
Nancy Pelosi did not take a position in the contest between Ocasio-Cortez and Rice. She left that decision to members of her Steering and Policy Committee. They voted in favor of Rice, 46-13.
Neither Rice nor Ocasio-Cortez is on Pelosi’s good side. Rice had refused to support Pelosi for Speaker and was denied an assignment on the House Judiciary Committee because of it. Ocasio-Cortez is a constant critic of Pelosi and recently said, in effect, that the Speaker should be put out to pasture.
But Rice was the clear favorite of Pelosi’s steering committee. It voted overwhelmingly against Ocasio-Cortez.
Does this mean that moderates are in the ascendancy among House Democrats? I don’t think so. In my view, Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat was driven by factors other than ideology.
First, loyalty. Ocasio-Cortez has supported insurgent candidates in challenges to House incumbents. On top of that, she refuses to pay party campaign dues. That’s not behavior that wins plum assignments.
Second, prudence. House Democrats fear losing their majority in 2022. They fear being perceived as too radical.
But this doesn’t mean they intend to be moderate when it comes to policy. It just means they want to maintain the pretense of non-radicalism. Keeping Ocasio-Cortez and other avowed far leftists out of key positions makes it easier to maintain that pretense.
Third, jealousy. Ocasio-Cortez is a 31 year-old who is completing her first term in the House. She was a nobody before her surprise victory in 2018. Yet, next to Pelosi, she is probably the best known Democratic member of Congress. Surely, that doesn’t sit well with many of her colleagues.
Fourth, secrecy. Ocasio-Cortez lost on a secret ballot. Mike Allen of Axios quotes a member of the steering committee as saying “the vote would have been very different if it wasn’t secret.”
That says a lot about how House Democrats will behave when the lights are on.