May 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seen addressing reporters during her weekly news conference.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

  • Pelosi has said privately she first wants to impanel a 9/11-type commission to investigate the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
  • A senior Democratic aide told Axios she'll then fill the select committee.
  • The Capitol siege panel has been delayed, though, by a partisan fight about its composition and the scope of its investigation.

The big picture: Wealth and income equality was at a record high before the pandemic.

  • It's only been exacerbated by the coronavirus.
  • The Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth is expected to be a prime perch for the party's emboldened more liberal wing as its members seek a more influential voice in the Democratic caucus.
  • It would consist of 15 House members, including six Republicans, and run through the end of the 117th Congress in January 2023.

The intrigue: Staff in the offices of several progressive members told Axios the promised committee was "a great selling point," as one termed it, as Pelosi campaigned to be reelected speaker.

  • It also fueled progressive support for the House rules package, since it was a promised component of the norms by which the chamber operates in each Congress.
  • “This was supposed to be a sweetener for some House progressives who were on the fence about the package,” a senior aide to a progressive member told Axios.

Be smart: The Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth would recommend urgent policies similar to those already provided by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

  • The latter is chaired by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and was carried over from the 116th Congress.
  • It met March 25 and has issued numerous news releases.
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