Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Friday that she was “very disappointed” by Barbara Lee’s loss to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in the race to become Democratic Caucus Chair.
Jayapal cited Lee’s strong credibility among progressives, adding that the California congresswoman inspired her own run for public office.
“Fifteen or twenty years ago, I watched what she did on the Iraq War and I was an activist, actually — an anti-war activist— and I looked at her and thought, ‘you can have real values and be in Congress,’ so it was a big disappointment because of the credibility she has in the progressive community,” she told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Juanita Tolliver on “Rising.”
Jayapal is poised to served alongside Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) in the 116th Congress.
The Washington lawmaker said CPC members will unite behind Jefferies, but hope to create a leadership role for Lee, saying a few members are already working towards finding her a position within the CDC.
“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do and I think we need to show that we understand the role that women of color played in our elections in winning the majority, so I hope we find a spot for Barbara Lee,” she told Hill.TV.
Lee on Wednesday narrowly lost her bid for Democratic Caucus Chair against Jeffries, who is seen as a rising star among House Democrats and potential future Speaker.
Despite Lee’s loss, the CPC increased their representation among the Democratic leadership ranks in the new Congress.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) defeated Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) to become the vice chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus. The progressive Democrat will be the sixth-ranking Democrat in the leadership hierarchy next year.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-M.d.) beat Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell for a leadership position reserved for junior members of the party.
But Jayapal hopes to expand the party’s leadership structure in the party to include even more progressives, a wish she has already made known to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who overwhelmingly won the nomination to return as House Speaker.
“As speaker or leader, you can’t be holding that on you’re own so we went to her — Mark Pocan and I— and said, ‘look, we want to make sure that progressives have equal representation on the A committees — the exclusive committees’ — those are the money committees, basically,” she said.
Despite a small group of detractors, the progressive said she thinks the majority of CDC members will support Pelosi’s bid to regain the Speaker’s gavel due to the lack of any opposition.
“Technically…you could go back, you could see if somebody could get more votes than Nancy, but I don’t think we have a clear person who has emerged for that, so I think we will see Nancy Pelosi get elected Speaker of the House,” she said.
— Tess Bonn