Barbara Lee May Finally Get Her Spot in House Leadership

Illustration for article titled Barbara Lee May Finally Get Her Spot in House Leadership
Photo: AP

Barbara Lee, one of the most progressive member of the House, lost her bid for House Democratic Caucus chair last week to Hakeem Jeffries. She was reportedly undermined by outgoing caucus chair Joe Crowley, who spread the rumor that Lee had donated to his primary challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, insinuating that Lee supported her campaign against Crowley’s incumbency. (In reality, Lee only donated to Ocasio-Cortez after the primary, and also this is some seriously petty shit.) A number of Democrats who had committed to supporting Lee secretly flipped their votes last minute.

In the wake of her loss, the Democrats are left without any women of color or true progressives in leadership positions. To rectify this fact—which looks, well, pretty bad for a party that holds itself up as a champion of women of color and progressive policies—it was reported by Politico on Friday that Nancy Pelosi created a new leadership position for Lee by adding a third co-chair on the Steering and Policy Committee.


The committee will have to vote on Pelosi’s recommendations. As Politico notes, the position, which assigns Democrats to committees, isn’t quite the same as caucus chair:

Even with the decision to appoint Lee, her job as steering co-chair is much more behind the scenes compared to caucus chairman or some of the other positions on Democrats’ sprawling leadership team.”

Lee has long proven to be a moral compass for the caucus—most famously being the only dissenting vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force after the September 11 attacks. There’s no question that the party desperately needs her leadership.

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Was thinking this over that yeah on the surface this does feel like placation, but Steering and Policy is a big deal for the future of their leadership, Putting the right people in the right chairs and allowing more people the opportunity then just the rank and file is smart going forward, and promoting those newer faces from the last few years is crucial.

This got me thinking how much attention Ocasio-Cortez has gotten the last several months, and there is a lot of expectation for a new member like her, but given the opportunity she could move up the ranks very quickly. And you ask what can a freshwoman do? Keep her head down? Well if you want an example how much you can do in 2 years look no further then Jamie Raskin of MD-8 (Montgomery County) after the most expensive dem primary ever last cycle, he’s gone on to be Vice-chair on the Progressive Caucus, Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus, is on 3 Committees and Vice-chair of the House Judiciary behind Jerrold Nadler and attained that all in one term all with the 6th most progressive voting record in the House.

Coming back around, having Barbara Lee as a vice-chair on Steering and Policy could see her push for the newest members to get not just a seat at the table, but a powerful voice directing those committees in the future, you could see vice-chairs and outright chairs for Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Illhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a lot sooner then people think