Tom Perez Gets Earful on Superdelegates at Congressional Progressive Caucus Meeting

The DNC chair met privately with CPC members about the handling of the Iowa caucus and recent reporting over committee rules that seem to favor Mike Bloomberg.

Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, at his office in Washington, Dec. 11, 2019. Being a national chairman for the party that doesn't hold the White House is among the worst jobs in American politics: a high-profile position with little power, endless grief from fretting party regulars and nonstop comparisons to the president's party, which has the president himself as its chief fund-raiser. (Lexey Swall/The New York Times)
Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 11, 2019. Photo: Lexey Swall/The New York Times via Redux

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez met privately on Tuesday with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to hear concerns over the nominating process from the party’s left flank. The conversation came in the wake of progressive frustration over the Iowa Democratic Party’s handling of the caucuses last week — in which Sen. Bernie Sanders topped former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but a series of snafus prolonged and frustrated the process, obfuscated the results, and left Buttigieg claiming a two-delegate victory.

Perez, according to people in the room, brought up the debacle himself, criticizing the IDP for its handling of the caucus, promising the limited recanvass Sanders has called for would be carried out effectively and professionally. Last week, Perez had attempted to take belated control of the situation — at one point, he even called for a recanvass of the results — but was rebuffed by Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price, who said Perez didn’t have the authority to do so.

“What happened last week was completely unacceptable,” Perez told The Intercept in a statement. “We are all in this together. We succeed together, and we all endure challenges together. We’ve been successful in electing Democrats up and down the ballot in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and I think we’re going to win this presidential election in 2020. That’s our sweet spot, and we are building the organizational structure needed to get there. And I think we have to have a conversation, and I’ve said this more than once, about the issue of primaries versus caucuses.”

The role of American oligarch Mike Bloomberg in the race also came up in the meeting. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., asked Perez what procedures he had in place to monitor conflicts of interest for the officials he names to key Democratic National Convention committees. Tlaib noted that the former New York City mayor had two paid surrogates on the DNC’s rules committee. The DNC had previously said the committee members had no say over a recent decision to change the rules for qualifying for Democratic debates — a rules change that would allow Bloomberg to participate. Perez did not spell out any particular conflict of interest provision the DNC uses, but instead said that he also named Larry Cohen, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, to a committee.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., told Perez they were frustrated by reports that some DNC members were considering changing the rules around superdelegates to allow them to vote in the first round at the convention, a clear effort to undermine a progressive candidate. Perez was emphatic that no such rules change would be made, arguing that the process had been allowed to play out through internal committees and that process would be respected. “We made these reforms, we did it in a very inclusive way, we voted, and we are implementing them. Period. End of story,” Perez told The Intercept, reflecting what he told the CPC. (Lee and Lawrence both endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris for president.)

Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Mark Pocan, and Reps. Katherine Clark, Yvette Clarke, and Sheila Jackson Lee attended the meeting as well, sources said, though Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Vice Chair Ro Khanna, D-Calif., were not there.

Join The Conversation