Bustos Named Steering Committee Co-Chair, DeLauro Making Bid for Appropriations

November 12, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., has been nominated to serve as co-chair of the Democratic caucus’ Steering and Policy Committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday.

Bustos will replace Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who informed the speaker last month of her decision to run for chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

The steering committee is considered a key assignment as it is the body that recommends committee assignments to the Democratic Caucus and has a hand in a wide range of policy matters.

Bustos’ potential elevation to the committee comes just 24 hours after she announced she would not seek re-election as the Democrat’s congressional campaign chief following an unexpected string of losses in last week’s elections.

In a letter to her colleagues released Monday, Bustos said she was “gutted” at the losses the party sustained on Election Day and said she would begin “a transparent after-action review to better understand why the national polling and modeling environment failed to materialize — not just for House races, but also up and down the ballot from the presidential to Senate and state legislative races.”

Several members of the caucus had been privately critical of her handling of the election, complaining she lost sight of their needs in order to pursue an aggressive strategy to try to flip battleground states like Texas.

In her letter, Bustos had said her immediate plan was to focus her efforts legislatively “to help President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as we build back better for the people.”

DeLauro is vying to replace outgoing Appropriations chair Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, who is retiring at the end of the 116th Congress.

Other contenders for the top spot on Appropriations include Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

In a dear colleague letter dated Sept. 9, DeLauro said she is committed “to helping every member participate in the appropriations process to ensure that the needs of his or her constituents are being met.”

She went on to say her own work on the Appropriations Committee has given her “an invaluable perspective on how the funding process can be used to advance our caucus’s priorities.”

“As the former chair of the Appropriations Agriculture, FDA Subcommittee, I developed an expertise on providing for our farmers and ranchers and ensuring our children and families have enough to eat,” she said.

“As the current chair of the Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, I have led the House in passing legislation that includes one-third of all non-defense discretionary spending and touches every aspect of people’s lives from women’s health to early childhood to their education to Social Security.

“I am especially pleased that in this year’s bill, we were able to include the vast majority of the over 15,000 member requests we received,” DeLauro added. “Thanks to those suggestions, we were able to pass a bill that helps us meet the needs created by the current unemployment crisis and make critical investments in all levels of education, from early childhood education to graduate programs.

“Just as importantly, I made sure our bill implemented Majority Whip Clyburn’s innovative 10-20-30 plan. As you know, the Clyburn plan allocates at least 10% of funding to counties where 20% of the population has lived below the poverty line for 30 years or more. We did this in the Labor-HHS bill, and I’ll make sure it will become standard practice in all our appropriation bills. It will be an important step in finally dealing with entrenched poverty in so many parts of our country,” DeLauro said.

Among the reforms that she has proposed are that meetings be held at each stage of the appropriations process to identify members’ key issues and desired outcomes; that freshman members be provided with an appropriations-dedicated session during their orientation; that bi-weekly or monthly meetings be held with the subcommittee chairs to guarantee better communication and stronger teamwork; and that the committee emphasize collaboration with Republican counterparts, including initiatives to deliver better domestic and national security results.

DeLauro has been endorsed by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and National Education Association President Becky Pringle.

On Wednesday, Pelosi thanked her for “long standing service and leadership” on the steering committee.

Of Bustos she said, “Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is a leader of great integrity and inspiration, and I am pleased to nominate her to fill this important role … Strengthened by the values of the heartland, Congresswoman Bustos will serve our caucus well in her new position.”

The Speaker also announced the nominations of Reps. Eric Swalwell and Barbara Lee, both of California, to serve as co-chairs of the Steering and Policy Committee for the 117th Congress.

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