This past week, Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) lost her seat on the House Financial Services Committee. As Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith observed, this brought “joy and gratitude to every crooked bankster on Wall Street.” According to The Hill, House Democratic leaders rejected Porter’s request to serve on the Financial Services panel and two other committees simultaneously. Porter apparently asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about rejoining Financial Services on a waiver. She was denied, even while, as Porter tweeted, “others in same situ got waivers. I did not. I play by the rules.” Porter will hold onto her seat on the Oversight Committee and join the Natural Resources Committee; she is also deputy of the House Progressive Caucus.
The first and at present still the the only single mother raising young kids while serving in Congress, Porter won a close race in 2018 that ended 36 straight years of Republican representation in her district. And she didn’t accomplish this by running to the center—in fact, Porter got her start in politics by working with California’s then–Attorney General Kamala Harris to secure $9.2 billion in mortgage forgiveness for homeowners victimized in the 2008 financial crisis; she considers Senator Elizabeth Warren a key mentor.
Porter has been remarkably effective in deploying hearings to shine a spotlight on financial service abuse. But she is even more effective in restoring people’s trust in government by speaking straightforwardly with her constituents, and by holding the powerful—especially bankers, financial regulators, and industry advocates—to account.
In a conversation with The Nation last summer, Porter spoke of how so many Americans have tuned out traditional politics. People have far too much on their plates, working two jobs, raising kids, caring for family members. She knows they simply aren’t paying that much attention to cable TV or Twitter—let alone the ins and outs of political intrigue. She believes it’s a politician’s job to make themselves and their work accessible to those people—not the other way around—and to improve the condition of people’s lives. She’ll tell you that some of Congress’s current traditions “suck.” If she sees an unnecessary and arcane acronym in a press release her staff has drafted, she’ll write out the full word. She insists that the term “making an impact” be used only if a meteor is hitting the earth—in all other cases, she says, politicians should just say what they really mean.
But Porter’s straight-talking, take-no-prisoners stance apparently played against her with Democratic House leaders. Since joining Congress, she’s been praised for her fierce, relentless questioning—and the results she achieves—during Financial Services committee hearings. Using her signature whiteboards and basic math, she’s schooled everyone from Trump administration officials to Wall Street CEOs. “Because of my work as a lawyer and consumer advocate, I also have a rigorous understanding of the 2008 financial crisis, which decimated family finances and helped cause the economic inequality that we face today,” she told The Nation.
Porter has become a powerful advocate for rebuilding our institutions so that government actually works for working families. She stresses the importance of getting the right people running our government bodies—not those who would dismantle the very institutions they head, and not just at the top levels, but throughout. Porter has also been an important leader in the fight to fund and save the post office, which she calls a “civic treasure..”
Pushing Porter off the Financial Services Committee doesn’t exactly get House Democrats off to a promising start. So let’s do Pelosi a favor and let her and the other House leaders know they need to think again, stop the bankers from celebrating—and get Porter that waiver. Katie Porter is a politician progressives should be willing to make a fuss over.