August 10, 2022

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Opinion | Katie Porter is off the House Financial Services Committee. We’re all worse off for it.

3 min read

But no more will be forthcoming. According to the Hill, Porter is off the House Financial Services Committee. And this is a loss for all of us.

The stated reason for her ouster is an arcane set of House Democratic caucus rules. The Financial Services Committee is an “exclusive” committee, which means that members who take a seat on it can serve solely on that committee, unless they ask for and receive a waiver to take on more than one such assignment.

In the last term, Porter did just that, and received a waiver from the House Steering Committee, — which is in charge of such things — so that she could also serve on the nonexclusive Oversight and Reform Committee. For the new congressional session, Porter attempted to get a second waiver so she could also serve on the nonexclusive Natural Resources Committee. It’s uncommon, but it is sometimes granted. Not this time. Instead, Porter received assignments to the Oversight and Natural Resources committees — and not Financial Services.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) got into a heated exchange with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Dec. 2. (The Washington Post)

Insiders say that’s the breaks. “It’s a gamble,” as a senior Democratic aide told me. “If you have primary committee like that and you are a permanent member and that is your top priority, you should never give that up.”

I get it. But this is why people outside the Beltway can sometimes hate Washington so much. If you are an American desperately seeking help with your finances and looking for someone, anyone in Washington to listen, arcane congressional protocols are the least of your concerns. You want a champion. You want a Katie Porter.

Porter is not pleased with the decision, and not shy about saying so. She first took to Twitter to complain, before releasing a statement on Friday, saying in part, “Over the last two years, I have a clear record of getting things done on the Financial Services and Oversight Committees, calling out powerful people, exposing corruption, and inviting the American people into conversations. When I got to Congress, I wanted to change up what we see in hearings — I wanted to actually ask questions and get answers. Too often, what we see instead is stonewalling and speechifying.”

But that approach transformed Porter into a bull in a china shop on the House Financial Services Committee. A number of financial industry insiders didn’t like her and carped anonymously to industry trade publications. Porter also tussled with other members of the committee over such things as her use of her well-known white board to make her points.

But that bull-in-a-china-shop approach is why so many among the general public love Porter. She’s a longtime consumer advocate and an expert on bankruptcy. She stands up to Wall Street and payday loan lenders alike, and is a powerful voice for financial justice for all Americans on the committee. There’s a reason Porter’s confrontations frequently go viral on social media. She gets it.

And Porter’s knack for righteous viral questioning almost certainly helped Porter hold on to her congressional seat. Porter’s district is in Orange County, Calif., and is almost evenly divided between Democrats, Independents and Republicans — with Republicans holding a slight advantage. Two other Orange County congressmen elected alongside Porter in 2018 went down to defeat in 2020, but Porter handily defeated her Republican challenger. Given how small the House Democratic majority is, you would think this would register.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) questioned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield on March 12. (Reuters)

To be clear, we’re not fully losing Porter’s voice. The Oversight Committee also offers opportunities for powerful moments and, no doubt, her voice will be heard on Natural Resources, as the nation continues to confront the challenge of climate change. Porter says she’ll stay on top of financial issues, too.

But still, at a time when millions of Americans are under the worst financial pressure they’ve ever experienced, Katie Porter’s voice is needed on the Financial Services Committee, as well. If there was ever a time for an exception to the rules, this is it.

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