Committees and Caucuses
In addition to their other responsibilities, Members of Congress are appointed by the Majority and Minority Leaders to serve on House committees. Committees are small groups of Members, both Democrats and Republicans, who hold committee hearings and debate legislation specific to the focus-area of that committee.
A committee is usually the first stop for a bill. So, for example, if a bill is focused on Wall Street regulation, it will usually first be debated by the Committee on Financial Services – because Wall Street regulation falls within that committee’s ‘jurisdiction.’ If a majority of Members of that Committee vote to support the bill, then it will go to the House floor where all Representatives vote on it.
While Members can request which committee they serve on, they are not guaranteed a spot. House Leadership will sometimes appoint a Member to a committee because it aligns with their professional expertise or their district’s interest - for example, several Members of the House Armed Services Committee are veterans or represent districts with large military bases. Since committees can dictate which legislation makes it to the floor for a larger vote, there is sometimes intense competition for committee spots, and then seniority or more political considerations dictate who House Leadership chooses for those spots.
Rep. AOC serves on The Committee of Oversight and Reform, which is the main investigative committee in the House. Rep. AOC has used these committee hearings to pressure big pharma into bringing down the price of prescription drugs. Under the Trump administration, she also led President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to state on the record that President Trump was engaging in tax fraud and to name other potential witnesses. And more famously, it was through an Oversight and Reform Hearing, that Rep AOC pressured Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s failure to fact-check political advertising.
Rep. AOC also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services, which focuses on Wall Street, the insurance industry, housing, urban development as well as other financial matters. Through this Committee, the Congresswoman advocates for New York City's Housing Authority, calling for full funding to meet its maintenance backlog. She has advocated for solutions to the affordable housing crisis like the repeal of the Faircloth amendment which prohibits a net increase in the amount of public housing units. She has also taken on Wall Street - calling for improved oversight of financial institutions, an end to stock buybacks and increased banking services for unbanked communities. At the height of the COVID19 pandemic - she introduced monumental legislation to require $15/hour, paid leave, and equity compensation for workers at any corporation receiving federal assistance.
Additionally, Rep. AOC serves on the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, which was started in January 2021 to develop solutions to the key income inequality. Rep. AOC was specifically tasked with addressing generational disparities and increasing worker power in the economy. This Select Committee is similar to one created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the Great Depression. As the country emerges from a pandemic, the hope is that this committee will develop meaningful solution to close the dramatic income inequality facing our country.
Unlike Committees, Members can usually join a Caucus without being appointed and there’s no limit on the number of members. Caucuses generally serve to build voting coalitions. For example, in 2019, the Congressional Progressive Caucus had enough of their Members willing to withhold their votes from a bill that gave big giveaways to major pharmaceutical companies– that House leadership was forced to alter the bill to protect employer-sponsored health plans from dug spikes, among other changes.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the LGBT Equality Caucus, Congressional Bangladesh Caucus and the Quiet Skies Caucus - a caucus in support of reducing aircraft noise pollution. The Congresswoman represents the community surrounding LaGaurdia Airport.