Wisconsin's Rep. Moore pitches bipartisanship as dean of state delegation

Wisconsin's Rep. Moore pitches bipartisanship as dean of state delegation

By: Taurean Small - Spectrum News

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee., one term away from hitting two decades in office, is now dean — the longest-tenured lawmaker — of the state's increasingly significant delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What You Need To Know

  • Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., the first Black woman elected to Congress from Wisconsin, is now the dean of the state's Congressional Delegation, having served in Congress since 2005 

  • How much influence she will have as dean is unclear as she is one of just two Democrats in the eight-member House delegation and Democrats are no longer the majority party in the chamber  

  • Moore says she’s open to working with every Republican member of her delegation but is concerned by the newest member’s attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021 “Stop the Steal” rally outside of the U.S. Capitol  

“We've had the best of the best and the worst of the worst in our delegation in both Houses,” Rep. Moore told Spectrum News. “And so I'm always proud to learn that members of our caucus are in leading positions. We have a member that's on the Intelligence Committee, for example.”  

The 118th Congress not only marks the milestone of the most-senior member of her caucus for Moore, several others in the delegation will assume elevated roles in the chamber.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, was appointed incoming chairman of the House Select Committee on China. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeaulah, was elected to the House Republican Party’s policy committee. And Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville was picked to help usher in GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s transition into the majority.  

Rep. Moore believes their voices in these positions could help spotlight the state’s interests.  

“So often, the remedies are focused on the coasts, and not focused on what our needs are in the Midwest,” she said. “So this is a very important delegation, however small it may be.”  

She’s hoping to keep policies that could reach Wisconsin at the top of Congress’s priority list. She’s planning to use her seniority to build consensus more often among the state’s lawmakers.  

“I am very eager to make sure that our caucus is conversant with the issues that have an impact on our state, and that we work together on those issues,” she said.  

How much influence Moore will have remains unclear. She is one of just two Democrats in the eight-member House delegation and Democrats are no longer the majority party in the chamber.

When asked about her thoughts on the narrowing group of Democrats, Moore said: "Well, I can tell you that I think that our shrinking representation is based on gerrymandering, quite frankly. [...] But even though we are in the minority, [Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison] and I, there are things, again, that are particular to our state, like the cost of dairy products, for example, that are our that we should all be concerned with."  

Undeterred by the prospect of waning influence of the role, Moore is committed to pushing bipartisanship.  

"I have focused very much of my career, not only in Congress, but in the state legislature on building relationships within my caucus and across the partisan divide," Moore said. "I have some responsibilities, for example, I'm the co-chair of the Bipartisan Trio Caucus. I'm co-chair of the Bipartisan National Youth Foster Care Institute. And I look forward, to the extent that I can, to working with Republicans."  

She believes putting in more face time could help curry the favor of her conservative colleagues.  

“I can tell you that as someone who entered Congress during the 109th Congress, I was always disappointed that the delegation didn't meet often,” she said. “We would probably meet when the governor of either party would come to town as kind of a pro forma meeting. And I would like to do that more often.”  

Moore is open to meeting individually with her Republican members as well. But she is anxious about the prospect of working with the delegation's newest member: Derrick Van Orden.

The Republican, now representing Western Wisconsin, flipped the seat once-held by Democrat Ron Kind, who did not seek re-election. She says she was disturbed by his attendance at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.  

"I'm very concerned that his presence in the Capitol on January 6 could compromise our ability to kind of see eye-to-eye," Moore told Spectrum News.  

While Moore acknowledged they probably differ on most policy issues, her biggest concern is Van Orden’s "commitment to this institution,” adding: "I never thought that I'd have to work with a group of people who absolutely did not agree to the basic tenets and principles of democracy."  

Rep.-elect Derrick Van Orden, R-Prairie du Chien, says he sent a letter to Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat representing Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District, but hasn’t met with Moore yet.  

"We are the state of Wisconsin's congressional representatives, so it's my duty, if they're not going to reach out to me, I'll reach out to them,” Van Orden told Spectrum News. “I will always put my hand out first but you gotta understand, that's a steel fist wrapped in a velvet glove.”  

Moore, while cautious, is open to meeting with Van Orden as the new dean.  

“I will try to be open, try not to be scared to meet him and to try to discern what his intent is,” she said.

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