November 25, 2020 at 10:00 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Rep. Maloney: Don’t blame Biden if McConnell ‘acts like a dinosaur’
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney seeks to become the first out gay chair of the DCCC. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), running to become the first openly gay chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, warned Tuesday not to blame President-elect Joe Biden if he falls short on fulfilling campaign promises to the LGBTQ community because of divided government.

Maloney made the remarks, ultimately predicting Biden would be successful, during a phone interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade when asked if he thinks Biden can fulfill his pledge to enact the Equality Act without strong Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress.

“You can’t blame Biden if Mitch McConnell acts like a dinosaur,” Maloney said. “Our job is to overcome that obstacle, working with a president who has made an historic commitment to the LGBT community and one I know he will fulfill. But he needs help, and that’s on all of us and it would be a mistake to stand back and expect him to do it all alone. That’s not how civil rights victories work.”

Maloney added his colleague, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chief sponsor of the Equality Act, has been a “tireless champion for the legislation” and “can’t wait to work with the new administration.”

“And yes, I believe, we will get it done because the country is way ahead of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate,” Maloney said.

On the campaign trail, Biden said the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination, would be his No. 1 legislative priority and he’d sign it within his first 100 days in office.

Making that happen with Republicans in control of the Senate — a possible outcome depending on the two special elections in Georgia — will be a challenge, although Biden as a presidential candidate touted being able to work across the aisle with Republicans.

As House Democrats lick their wounds after the loss of at least 13 seats, Maloney is currently vying to become chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with a plan to recalibrate the caucus following an after-action review.

The election among House Democrats to vote for the next head of the DCCC is expected to take place next week. Maloney and Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) are jockeying for the role.

The review, Maloney said, would be similar to the analysis that took place prior to the takeover in 2018, when he led a process taking about three months to view all the quantitative data on the 2016 losses and interviewed about 200 people, including members of Congress, pollsters, and consultants.

“I mean, soup to nuts,” Maloney concluded. “The point was to develop a shared understanding among ideological perspectives, and also, to fine tune your organization. And I think the 2018 results speak for itself. So, I tend to repeat that process.”

Asked about the timing for when the review would be done, Maloney cautioned not to expect the process to be done lickety-split.

“I don’t think the point is to rush it,” Maloney said. “I think the point is to do it well and to learn something.”

But why did the House Democrats suffers so many unexpected losses when they were widely expected to gain seats as Biden won the presidential election? Maloney declined to speculate without having gone through this after-action review.

“I don’t know but I know how to find out,” Maloney said. “And I think the important thing now is to do a rigorous after-action review, which is exactly what I did. The last time we found ourselves at a similar crossroads and the result was the architecture of the 2018 victory. So I think anybody who tells you they know is offering you an opinion, and that’s a poor substitute for analysis.”

When the Blade pointed out other House Democrats, including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), have blamed the losses on calls to “Defund the Police” and labels of socialism, Maloney declined to say whether he shares that view.

”It’s not my job to comment on the different opinions being expressed, but to listen to all of them and to look at the evidence and develop a shared understanding among all members of the caucus about what we went through and the best way to move forward,” Maloney said.

Among those supporting Maloney in the DCCC is Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), another gay member of Congress and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Members of Maloney’s whip team for the DCCC race are Reps. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), the first lesbian mother in Congress, Chris Pappas (D-N.H), as well as LGBTQ rights supporters Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

In 2022, Maloney would be taking the reins of the DCCC after congressional redistricting from state legislatures in the aftermath of the 2020 Census. Although Democrats sought to take additional state legislatures to eliminate districts gerrymandered for Republicans, Democrats took no additional legislatures and lost ground in Alaska and New Hampshire.

Maloney said factoring redistricting into plans for the 2022 election would be “absolutely critical,” and will require a “50-state strategy,” but declined to provide details on that strategy.

“I’ve already begun developing a plan on that, and it’s something I plan to discuss with my colleagues and not talk about with reporters,” Maloney said.

If elected as DCCC chair, Maloney would be the first openly gay person to hold that role as the number of openly gay members of the House Democratic caucus will be expanded and diversified to include the first two openly gay Black members of Congress, Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.).

“Every barrier that falls, every ceiling we shatter makes us stronger as a community,” Maloney said. “There is simply no substitute in politics or in business, or in life, for having a real seat at the table, and while I believe I am the most qualified person with the best experience, I’m always happy when I can also show folks what’s possible for our community.”

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article misspelled the name of Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and referred to her as a progressive, even though she’s poised to become leader of the moderate New Democrat Coalition. The Blade regrets the errors.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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