Representatives Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey – co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – aren’t concerned about the close-to-conventional wisdom that conservative and Blue Dog Democrats will dominate the next Congress.
The CPC – already the largest caucus in Congress with 64 members – is expected to add at least seven new Democrats after this election. (Eight of the twelve candidates who received campaign support from caucus members won their races, including: Jerry McNerney (CA); Phil Hare (IL); Keith Ellison (MN); Bruce Braley (IA); John Hall (NY); Mazie Hirono (HI); Gabrielle Giffords (AZ); and Julia Carson (IN).) The CPC will now be represented in the Senate, too, where Senator-elect Bernie Sanders has pledged to remain a member and help recruit his new colleagues, and Sherrod Brown is expected to do the same.
Most significantly, the CPC’s pressing issues are in sync with the American public’s interests and desires. “We represent the real democratic values of our party,” Woolsey says.
“We are a big tent party, but it was the war and economic issues that won this election,” says Lee. “CPC members were the ones who didn’t vote for the war in Iraq; and CPC members were the ones who called for an end to the Iraq War. And as far as the economy goes, proposals like raising the minimum wage are part of the progressive agenda.”
Woolsey believes that the diversity of ideas within the party represents an opportunity. “Our party can prove to the nation that we represent all Americans – not just a slice of America. But our role is clear: if we sat quietly and let moderate Democrats become the left edge, then right-wingers would sail….They wouldn’t look so right-wingy anymore!”
The Caucus has a clear vision for the upcoming Congress. It will support former-CPC member and Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi on her First 100 Hours and Six for ’06 initiatives. But both Lee and Woolsey say that the CPC is focused on going “beyond that.” They point to the caucus’ Progressive Promise which outlines its goals in the areas of economic security, civil rights and liberties, global peace and security, and environmental protection and energy independence.
“We have to keep our promise to the American people by passing our Progressive Promise,” Lee says.
Among other legislation, Woolsey looks forward to the CPC’s unveiling of its “Peace and Security” budget this Spring. It will show “what a budget would look like if we invested in peace.” She points to addressing the Patriot Act and Homeland Security (“make our nation more secure but not by taking away our rights”); making elections genuinely secure (“we as Democrats didn’t do enough about that in the past two years”); taking on media control (“the FCC needs to know that we need more than a few corporations controlling the media”); and taking real steps to free the nation from dependence on foreign oil.