More details on Braley's Populist Caucus

Chris Bowers wrote a good post on where Representative Bruce Braley’s new Populist Caucus fits in among House Democrats. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:

Clearly, there is a strong tendency toward the Progressive caucus among the Populists, even though they were organized by a New Democrat. Further, Progressive punch puts the median lifetime score on “crucial votes” for this group at 55.5 of 256 (between [Joe] Courtney at 54 and [Dave] Loebsack at 57) in the Democratic caucus, placing it decidedly in the left-wing of the party.


Notably, the Populists are also heavy on the class of 2006, as 14 of the 20 members listed by the Huffington Post were first elected to Congress that year (and Massa came within an inch of being a 15th that year). Only Boswell, DeFazio, Filner Sanchez and Schakowsky were first elected to Congress before 2006. As such, while it displayed the same fractured tendencies of all ideological caucuses across the three bailout votes, the Populist Caucus appears to be primarily a caucus of progressive sophomore Representatives. This is particularly interesting since the class of 2006 was supposed to be a conservative dominated class ushered in by then -DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel. Now, the progressive members of that class appear to have organized a new caucus for themselves.

I didn’t realize until I read this page on Braley’s website that Tom Harkin chaired a House Populist Caucus during the 1980s:

In February of 1983, a group of 14 Midwest Democratic members of Congress founded the first known “Populist Caucus” with the goal to “fight for such economic goals as fairer taxes, lower interest rates and cheaper energy.”

The original Populist Caucus was chaired by then-Rep. Tom Harkin (D-IA).  The other members in the caucus were Berkley Bedell (D-IA); Lane Evans (D-IL); Tom Daschle (D-SD); Al Gore (D-TN); Timothy Penny (D-MN); Jim Weaver (D-OR); Byron Dorgan (D-ND); Harold Volkmer (D-MO); James Oberstar (D-MN); Bob Wise (D-WV); Frank McCloskey (D-IN); Bill Richardson (D-NM); Gerry Sikorski (D-MN); and Mike Synar (D-OK).

The first Populist Caucus dissolved by the mid-1990’s.

Several members of that original Populist Caucus had been elected to the U.S. Senate or had left the House for other reasons by the early 1990s.

Side note: Bill Richardson once identified himself as a populist? Wow.

The new Populist Caucus platform is on Braley’s website:

  1. Fighting for working families and the middle class by creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America, providing fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and ensuring American workers have secure, solvent retirement plans.

  2. Cutting taxes for the middle class and establishing an equitable tax structure.

  3. Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Americans.

  4. Ensuring quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.

  5. Defending American competiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.

  6. Protecting consumers, so that Americans can have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase

I will be interested to see how the Populist Caucus weighs in on the coming debates over health care, workers’ rights and tax policy.

A full list of the 23 founding Populist Caucus members is after the jump.  

Members of the Populist Caucus::

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), Chair;    

Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY), Vice-Chair;    

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Vice-Chair;

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH), Vice-Chair;

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA); Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT); Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN); Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA); Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL); Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA); Rep. Steve Kagan (D-WI); Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA); Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY); Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME); Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA); Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA); Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-IL); Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH); Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY); Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT); and Rep. John Yarmouth (D-KY).  


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  • Boswell?

    Isn’t it a contradiction to be proud of your Blue-Dog affiliation and to consider yourself a Progressive/Populist? Are there other Blue Dogs in there too?

    • Arcuri is a Blue Dog

      but if you look at the Progressive Punch ratings, he is way higher than most of the Blue Dogs. Maybe he joined just to make his district think he’s more conservative than he is.

      I doubt Boswell would have joined a caucus with this orientation if a fellow Iowan had not started it. I think they get along well.