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Katherine Clark is here to make law and chew gum, and she is all out of gum

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Author: jconway

I continue to be impressed by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA-CD5) who has been able to amass an impressive amount of achievements in just two terms and despite being in the minority party. Commonwealth Magazine has a profile that is worth reading in it’s entirety, but it shows how a progressive leader can stay true to her principles while also forging bipartisan coalitions that result in legislative results.

I call this process convergence, which is very distinct from centrism. Centrism is watering down a progressive bill to get conservative and moderate co-sponsors, convergence is finding conservative and moderate co-sponsors to support a progressive bill. A key distinction. Elizabeth Warren has been quite successful as well, with her bills with Sen. Corker to rein in student loan profits and her bill with Sen. McCain to reinstate Glass-Steagall.

Clark has forged similar coalitions with folks like Mitch McConnell. Who she gave the LBJ treatment to at the State of the Union.

strode up to Mitch McConnell, grabbed his hand, and wouldn’t let go.

Her aim was to convince the Kentucky Republican, who is the Senate majority leader, to work with her on legislation to combat heroin addiction in infants. Though the tactic may have been presumptuous, it worked. McConnell, whose state has a big problem with heroin, agreed. “I literally grabbed him on his way down the center aisle,” says Clark, who won a special election in December 2013 to take Ed Markey’s 5th District seat. “I did the famous politician double-grip, where you kind of grab the forearm, and I just wouldn’t let go of him.”

While Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi are rivals who dislike each other, Clark has forged close ties to both. Becoming Deputy House Majority Whip on Hoyer’s team, while also becoming one of Pelosi’s top House Lieutenants.

Clark is the most junior member on the steering committee. She is among those picked for the job by Pelosi, with whom Clark has struck up a friendship. Pelosi campaigned for her after she won a competitive Democratic primary in 2013, even though Clark had no real challenger in the general election. When Clark arrived in Washington, Pelosi showed her around.

Clark has assembled bipartisan relationships by joining the House softball team and amassing co-sponsors for a key domestic violence bill.

Clark’s other priority bill, to provide federal grants to allow victims of domestic violence to bring their pets with them to temporary housing, has more than a dozen Republican co-sponsors. She met the lead GOP sponsor, Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, by going out for the House’s softball team last year. Clark says she’s not even particularly good at softball. “I really joined it for that opportunity — to be able to meet people,” she says.

That said, she continues to fight hard for progressive causes, especially continued supported for gay rights (a personal fight as her brother is gay), and women’s rights. She is one of the lead opponents of the 20 week abortion ban the House is trying to pass and a lead sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was the first bill she sponsored in her Congressional career.

I expect Katherine Clark to continue to rise in the leadership and bring Massachusetts some of the clout we lost with the passing of Sen. Kennedy, the elevation of Senator Kerry to the cabinet, and the retirement of Barney Frank. Who knows what other glass ceilings she will continue to break as she intelligently deploys political power on behalf of the powerless?

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