Rep. Linda T. Sánchez believes House Democrats should get newer members more involved in leadership, or at least showcase "fresher" faces.
Sánchez told CQ Roll Call during an interview taped for C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" that she has "been thinking a lot" about addressing agitation among younger members of the rank and file as she approaches her role as the incoming chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
"I know some of the frustrations of being a newer, younger member and really wanting to get involved in some of these meaty issues," said Sánchez, who is entering her seventh term in Congress. "There are ways in which you can include younger and newer members — reaching out to them and inviting them to participate in ways that the old seniority-only system doesn't allow them much input or impact."
Her goal at CHC will be to harness their passion and energy by letting them be "front-and-center on some of these issues that normally they're not given an opportunity to speak on" at press events or local efforts.
She said during the conversation, which included this journalist and Politico reporter Seung Min Kim and was dominated by talk of immigration legislation, that relying solely on seniority isn't a sustainable system going forward.
"There will be at some point a big change within the Democratic Caucus in terms of how we utilize our members and how we field our best team," she said. "Seniority plays a role, and I think it should, but I think that doesn't mean that you lock out some of the fresher faces, and some of the fresher voices."
Asked specifically how she viewed Democrats' decision to select the more-senior Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey to be ranking member on Energy and Commerce over Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California, she said it was a little different because personality and work on party messaging played a factor. "People generally think seniority should count for something ... but shouldn't be the sole determinant," she said.
Going forward, Sánchez would like her party to shift and not consider seniority the sole determinant, but include "other factors as well."
"So long as you continue to not allow the full bench of the Democratic Caucus to participate in areas where they can really contribute, I think people may start looking for alternate ways to select who become ranking members or who should be the spokespeople on particular issues," she said.
Among her CHC goals is urging Congress to consider more diversity on witness panels, because people testifying have long tended to be the same crowd of "white men."
"There are very qualified individuals from many ethnic backgrounds who can come speak yet for some reason the same sort of demographic always gets asked to come and testify in congressional hearings," she said.
The full program airs Sunday at 10 a.m.
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