BBC News / YouTube Ayanna Pressley Democrat reacts to shock...
BBC News / YouTube

It’s only been a month since the newest Democratic members were sworn into Congress, but they are making an impact. Already known for being the most diverse freshman class in history, they’ve also been able to get prime appointments to the most powerful and influential committees in the House. As ThinkProgress notes, this is very unusual because these seats are usually reserved for more senior members of Congress. Out of the many committees, the ones most in demand “typically require members to ‘pay their dues’ before gaining these prime appointments.”

One of the most significant committees in the House is the Financial Services Committee which is responsible for the entire U.S. banking system, Treasury Department, and Federal Reserve. Recently, California Rep. Maxine Waters was appointed to lead it and she’s announced her priorities for taking on Wall Street regulations, homelessness, and housing affordability. Waters will be joined by some of the newly elected representatives who made economic inequality a central part of their campaign platforms. Among them are: Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota and Rep. Katie Porter of California. 

Reps. Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez, and Tlaib also join fellow freshman Rep. Katie Hill of California on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. This will certainly be another committee to watch, given that it’s the one that has subpoena power and serves as the primary investigative committee for the House. As soon as their committee assignments were announced, Reps. Pressley and Tlaib were clear about their intentions to bring integrity back to our badly damaged democracy, starting with the Trump administration.

Many of these progressive representatives have been constantly in the spotlight, and it’s shining on them from both the right and the left. Republicans have labeled them out-of-control socialists who want to destroy capitalism and all that America stands for. Meanwhile, some Democrats say that they are too far left and will alienate centrist voters. The representative who garners the most attention and who can’t sneeze without it being on Fox News is most certainly Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. While Fox is busy debating the meaning of her clothing choices and her tweets, reporters are asking her colleagues what its like to work with her.

According to Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, head of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, she is a “team player” and “breath of fresh air.” In a recent Vanity Fair article, Democratic lawmakers and congressional aides describe her as egoless, interested in learning and working hard to build relationships.

“She has a willingness to work with people and develop positive relationships, and I think we should let her do her job for a little while and wait to determine if she is going to be a flamethrower or someone who will do more and do something real,” this person told me. “I think there are other members that can be more of a pain than A.O.C.”

For her part, it seems that all the fame has not gone to her head. Just earlier this week, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she feels grateful to have appointments on these important and high-profile committees.

Watching these new representatives bring their high energy and priorities to the committee will be fun, but also a huge relief after Republicans failed to do anything productive under Trump (except their tax scam and numerous attempts to repeal Obamacare). And after the State of the Union address where Trump threatened the country and warned against “partisan investigations,” we’ll need their tenacity and instincts now more than ever. It’s impressive and history-making that so many of the new progressive members of Congress are on these committees, but its also necessary. They are committed to oversight and accountability and are the only thing standing between Trump and the chaos, corruption, and manipulation he’s inflicting on the country.

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