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Mark Pocan undecided on Pelosi as speaker, says Democrats need ‘big and bold’ agenda

November 20, 2018

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan isn’t saying if he’ll back Nancy Pelosi as House speaker when Democrats retake the majority next year.

Still, Pocan told reporters Monday he believes Pelosi, who was speaker from 2007 to 2011, likely will return to that post after Democrats captured control of the chamber in the Nov. 6 election.

“I would say the odds are that Nancy Pelosi is the next speaker,” he said.

In a separate interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Pocan said the Congressional Progressive Caucus he leads — which expanded its ranks in the recent election — must have a more prominent role among House Democrats in 2019.

He also said House Democrats need a “big and bold” legislative agenda to offer a contrast to Republicans, with whom they will share power in Congress.

“We need to be big and bold and show people the path forward,” Pocan said. “All those provisions aren’t necessarily going to happen. But I think we need to show people there is an alternative.”

Pocan, D-Black Earth, cited health care access, prescription drug costs, infrastructure projects and ethics issues among his priorities.

Pocan represents a district that includes Dane County. He co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes much of the liberal wing of congressional Democrats. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, is also a member.

Pocan said he hopes increased membership and staffing for the caucus will boost its influence and help it become a vehicle to convert ideas from the liberal grassroots into legislation.

Meanwhile, he said he expects to make a decision after Thanksgiving on whether to back Pelosi, D-California. No other Democrats officially are opposing Pelosi, though U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, has said she’s considering it.

Pocan hinted that he’s pleased with Pelosi’s early signs of how she’ll address the newly empowered progressive caucus. He said he met last week with Pelosi and she agreed that progressive caucus members would get proportional representation on key House committees.

“We got a commitment from the leader to do that, and that was big,” he said.

Pocan suggested he doesn’t think House Democrats should move quickly to impeach President Donald Trump, as some liberal activists want.

But he said he’s watching with interest for additional findings from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and whether there were any Russian links to the Trump campaign. That investigation has so far been linked to indictments against more than 30 people, including Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Pocan said he envisions ways other than impeachment for House Democrats to hold Trump accountable.

“Everything from the emoluments clause potential violations, to tax returns to many other things,” he said. “We’re going to be doing oversight as proper.”

Asked about Republican state lawmakers’ plans for a lame-duck session before Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers takes office in January, Pocan said he fears a bid to change the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process, by which boundaries for legislative and congressional districts are redrawn to match population shifts. Redistricting is a constitutional requirement but there are laws on the books that specify how it’s carried out.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a statement that such changes are “not something that has been discussed within the Senate Republican caucus, and I do not foresee it being an issue that we consider for the extraordinary session.”

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