South Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews was named co-chair of the House Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee this week, an appointment that gives him a say in shaping the caucus’ policy stands and is indicative of his ties to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Allyson Schwartz, the Congresswoman who represents parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, was named one of two vice-chairs on the committee, adding to the region's influence on the policy panel.
Frank Pallone, of New Jersey, and Delaware’s John Carney were also named as committee members.
The committee helps shape the policy stands and agenda for House Democrats. It also helps decide who serves on the various House committees – a critical piece of deciding who gains and loses stature in Washington.
Andrews has at times been a prominent public voice for Democrats.
His appointment raised eyebrows among some Democrats, though, given the ethical complaint hanging over him after he spent tens of thousands of campaign dollars on a trip to Scotland with his family. Andrews has said he followed all of the rules of the House and acted appropriately, but the issue is unresolved. In theory, as co-chair he could have influence over who is appointed to the House ethics committee, which is looking into a complaint against him, if an opening arises.
Spokesmen for Andrews and Pelosi noted that the steering committee does not have final say on assignments to other committees; it only makes recommendations. The full caucus decides on committee appointments (with a heavy influence from Pelosi herself).
“Congressman Andrews was selected based on his deep knowledge of policy issues that impact the middle class," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami.
In a news release initially announcing the appointments, Pelosi said, “The leaders and members of the Steering Committee reflect the diversity, energy, bold ideas, and creative thinking of all House Democrats, and embody our Democratic commitment to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and grow the economy. With Congresswoman DeLauro and Congressman Andrews at the helm, this committee will play a central role in addressing the challenges facing our families, small businesses, and communities nationwide.”
Andrews, in his own statement, said, “I am humbled and honored that Leader Pelosi has given me this opportunity to serve my Caucus and help guide our best ideas into meaningful policy for the middle class. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to build a bipartisan agenda that addresses the needs of everyday Americans who are struggling to find work, health care, and a good education.”
The other co-chair is U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut.
Schwartz is also hopeful of being named to the influential Ways and Means Committee, which handles taxation and could have a critical role next session in the debate on tax reform. There will be two openings for Democrats on the panel.