Pelosi Launches Caucus Meeting Supplement

Posted June 6, 2003 at 4:58pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has launched a series of town hall-style meetings with the Democratic Caucus, in an effort to give more face time to her Members.

Pelosi held the first session, a private luncheon with Members in the Rayburn Gold Room, last week. The meeting, attended by about125 Democrats, focused on the leader’s communications strategy and efforts to advance the party message.

“It’s a chance to talk to Members about what we’re doing,” said Brendan Daly, Pelosi’s spokesman. “It’s a way to talk directly to the Members and not take over the other [Caucus] meetings, which have specific purposes.”

The Minority Leader is still working out the details for the format of the meetings, including how often to hold them and what topics to address. Future sessions could include guest speakers, or be held off the immediate Capitol campus to allow for a political focus.

Daly said the leader, who had considered holding the luncheons on a weekly basis, will hold them “as needed” and hasn’t set up a specific schedule for future meetings.

In part, the sessions are an outgrowth of two dinners Pelosi hosted earlier this year. Those meetings focused on her communications strategy and the revamping of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Several Democratic sources said the leadership luncheons could be a good idea, as long as they don’t duplicate other Caucus efforts. Bringing the entire Democratic membership together runs the risk of circumventing the weekly Caucus sessions.

“The first meeting came darn close to seeming like a Caucus meeting with a sit-down lunch,” said one senior aide. “There is such a fine line with what she did and what takes place at the Caucus.

“Some will argue that those luncheons should be a Caucus function.”

But Daly said Pelosi wants to ensure that no toes are stepped on. Rather, she wants the luncheons to provide an avenue for her to meet with Members outside of the weekly Caucus or Whip meetings.

“She didn’t want to take away from those,” Daly said.

Another top Democratic aide advised that to be effective and to ensure strong attendance, Pelosi should hold the sessions periodically and for a specific purpose. That way, the staffer said, “it will be more meaningful.”

“I can see value when she has a purpose and a true goal of transmitting information or communicating to Members,” said the aide. “If it’s something significant or something sensitive, I can see value in it.”

That aide also said the Pelosi luncheons could be akin to something former Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) did on a daily basis.

Gephardt held leadership meetings with core groups of Members each day Congress was in session to vet issues and talk strategy.

Pelosi has kept a much smaller inner circle since taking over the top minority slot in January. She does, however, use the Steering and Policy Committee as a sounding board on major policy initiatives.