Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley promises to pull no punches when she questions President Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen, who will testify publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Wednesday.
“I don’t want to tease or reveal too much about my line of questioning, but just trust that it will be hard and direct,” Pressley said of her plans for Cohen, who will reportedly detail wrongdoing by the president both before and after he was elected.
Pressley is among a group of freshmen lawmakers on that committee who have already made their voices heard in a direct way. Earlier this month they voted against a spending package negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to avert a second partial government shutdown.
Pressley joined fellow committee members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and also Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in voting “no” on the measure. They objected to funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection — agencies Pressley describes as rogue and racist.
The four lawmakers have much in common: They are all freshmen, progressives and women of color. They've also shown no hesitation about speaking out about the issues they care about, and joining forces to amplify that message.
“We already know people died,” Tlaib said at a joint press event lawmakers held earlier this month, decrying the treatment of detainees in ICE custody. “That should be enough for us to act and to say that no more money [should go] toward an institution that is demonizing and criminalizing our immigrant neighbors.”
At that event, Ocasio-Cortez referenced the lawmakers’ coalition
“I’m very glad to be joined here by a wave of women ... and a wave of new members who understand that moral clarity of this issue,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I will not compromise the lives of children and neither will my colleagues.”
In addition to the House Oversight committee, Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib also sit on the House Financial Services Committee — another opportunity to join forces.
Pressley said history has provided a guide to the new lawmakers, comparing her class to the wave of Democrats who were elected in 1974 after President Nixon’s resignation seeking to push for increased oversight and ethics reforms.
“Our class has many parallels to the class of the Watergate Babies, a class that was selected in an affront the the polarization of the country and growing corruption,” Pressley said.
Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who worked with former Senate Leader Harry Reid and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, said he doesn’t expect this new coalition to stop with their funding vote — even if it means defying Pelosi when they see fit.
"They seem to relish the idea that they’re the outsiders that are going to stick to their principles come hell or high water,” Manley said. “Whether that’s a smart move or not remains to be seen."
Manley noted that, like with the government funding vote, it's unlikely that the four lawmakers will keep Pelosi from reaching the 218-vote threshold she needs to advance legislation. But that likely won’t be a deterrent to Pressley’s newfound coalition.
“I think this is the first of many chances that they are going to try to take to try and upset the careful plans of the speaker,” Manley said.
In addition to investigations into the Trump administration and immigration policies, Pressley identified drug pricing, gun control and voting rights as areas of collaboration.
Pressley said she will not always act as part of a bloc. But she says she sees the power of collaboration on the agenda items they share.
“Where there is alignment and we can be in coalition we will be,” Pressley said. “But we also need the runway and the bandwidth to diverge when we need to.”
Pressley, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez will get that space Wednesday when each questions Cohen, as the public — and quite likely the president — watches.
This segment aired on February 27, 2019.