House Democrats will make every effort to deliver on the promises that brought them into the majority of the U.S. House, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, said Monday.
"We are going to respond to what we ran on, to make sure that we’re delivering on what delivered us the majority," Pocan told reporters in his Madison office.
That means early legislative priorities will include efforts to expand access to health care, lower prescription drug prices, raise the minimum wage, fund infrastructure projects and implement changes to ethics, elections and campaign finance rules.
"We ran on trying to change the culture of corruption in Washington," Pocan said, adding that he expects the first House bill introduced in the upcoming session to be one that includes efforts to expand voting rights and enact more stringent campaign finance disclosure requirements.
Although Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, the Senate remains under Republican leadership.
Pocan is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes some of the party's more liberal Democratic members. He and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington state Democrat who is expected to co-chair the committee next year, met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week to discuss increasing the caucus's representation on key committees like Ways and Means and Intelligence.
The caucus will comprise about 90 members in the incoming Congress, and is arguing its members should account for 40 percent of Democratic seats on major committees. Pelosi committed to increasing the caucus's representation, Pocan said.
Shortly before Pocan spoke with reporters on Monday, a group of 16 House Democrats released a letter pledging to oppose electing Pelosi as House Speaker. Pelosi has not yet drawn an opponent, but Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio has said she is considering challenging her.
Pocan said he is waiting until he can have a personal conversation with Pelosi before announcing his vote, but said "the odds are" that she will return as Speaker of the House.
The congressman rejected comparisons between the Progressive Caucus and the Freedom Caucus, a group that includes some of the Republican Party's most conservative members of Congress. Pocan said he doesn't see his group as a force of obstruction.
"The big difference is they were a caucus of saying 'no.' We're largely a caucus of saying 'yes,'" Pocan said. "We have lots of progressive policy ideas we want to see enacted, and some of those, we understand that we don't have broad enough support yet, but we're going to work very, very hard to to convince members that that's the direction to go."
Pocan named "Medicare for All" as a policy he and the Progressive Caucus will promote within the Democratic Party in an effort to "build power to 'yes.'"
Asked whether he would support impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, Pocan said he and other members of Congress are awaiting the results of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"I think the biggest reaction you’re going to see out of many of us would be if something happens to derail the investigation from completing," Pocan said, adding that House Democrats will likely exercise oversight powers related to the president's tax returns or potential violations of the emoluments clause. "If the president did nothing and there's nothing to show, then let it run its course."
Pocan, who introduced legislation in July to abolish Immigration and Customs and Enforcement, or ICE, said he still believes that's the right move, but not all Democrats agree.
From Friday, Sept. 21, to Monday, Sept. 24, ICE detained 20 people in Dane County and a total of 83 in Wisconsin. According to an ICE statement, more than half of those detained in the four-day period had criminal histories. The release highlighted four individuals who committed serious crimes like sex with a minor and child enticement.
Pocan has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking for information about criminal offenses, communications between ICE and local law enforcement and ICE presence in Madison. He said Monday he has not received any additional information, including why the other 79 individuals were picked up.
Efforts to address ICE practices will likely focus on funding for detention beds and addressing family separation policies, Pocan said.
"We need to have comprehensive immigration get on the table," Pocan said. "I don't know how quickly that will happen … but I think many of us … are still very concerned."
Cap Times reporter Lisa Speckhard Pasque contributed to this story.