The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Freshman Democrats: Legislation, not investigations, should be House priority

Democratic Reps.-elect Abigail Spanberger (Va.), second from left, Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), Elaine Luria (Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) speak about their office assignments on Capitol Hill last week. All four signed a letter delivered Monday asking for an emphasis on legislation over investigations in the next Congress. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Nearly four dozen incoming House Democrats told their future leaders Monday that they should prioritize action on health care, immigration, gun control and other topics over investigations into the Trump administration.

The message was delivered in a letter that 46 freshmen sent to the entire Democratic leadership team, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom Democrats nominated to become the next speaker and who is seeking to persuade her internal critics to support her in a decisive Jan. 3 floor vote.

“While we have a duty to exercise oversight over the Executive Branch, particularly when the Administration crosses legal lines or contravenes American values, we must prioritize action on topics such as the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, our crumbling infrastructure, immigration, gun safety, the environment, and criminal justice reform,” the freshmen wrote. “While we may not always agree on how to approach every issue, we are united in the belief that we have a mandate to debate, draft, and work across the aisle to pass legislation.”

The demand for a bipartisan focus on legislation is one of several requests made by the signers of the letter. Others include holding monthly meetings between top leaders and freshmen, seats on the most powerful House committees, more committee hearings held outside of Washington and a “set calendar” that will allow members to balance their political life at the Capitol with time back home in their districts.

Pelosi has already publicly agreed to most of the demands, including a 72-hour-notice rule for floor legislation and a streamlined path to passing bills that have the support of two-thirds of House members. The signers asked the top leaders to discuss the requests “at the earliest possible date.”

What remains to be seen is whether Pelosi can win further support by acquiescing to the requests in the letter. Of the 46 signers, 10 have expressed opposition to Pelosi’s speaker bid, and seven more have not given a firm answer on whether they’ll back her, according to a Washington Post tally of Pelosi’s support.

Among those who have been critical of Pelosi is Rep.-elect Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who helped draft and circulate support for the letter. But more recently, Slotkin has refused to say how she will vote Jan. 3, fueling speculation that her support is up for grabs.

“We are a diverse group,” the letter reads. “Politically and ideologically, we have different views. But make no mistake, the undersigned are united in the belief that our class has a responsibility and mandate for change in the U.S. Congress.”