SEATTLE, Washington — In the 116th Congress, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Kevin McCarthy all chair leadership positions for the House of Representatives. They represent their parties’ initiatives and perspectives on how global poverty can become a focus of U.S. foreign policy. House leadership supports efforts to fight global poverty through poverty-reduction legislation.
Leadership in the House of Representatives
The leadership in the House of Representatives is broken down into three top roles. Those roles are the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader. Nancy Pelosi is the current Speaker of the House and presides over the entire congressional body. Every legislator regardless of party affiliation votes to elect someone to the position. In addition, the Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, represents the party with the most number of seats in the House. Lastly, the Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, represents the party with the least amount of seats. While there are other third-party representatives like the Green Party and Independents, only the Republicans and Democrats are represented in House leadership due to the largely two-party system.
In the current House, Democrats hold the majority while Republicans are the minority. During this congressional session, representatives passed the Keeping Girls in School Act, the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act, the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, the Global Fragility Act and the End Neglected Tropical Disease Act. These are all acts that The Borgen Project supports.
In recent years, the three House leaders have done limited work on global poverty-reduction legislation. This means that in the last few years, the focus on foreign policy decreased. However, thanks to advocacy efforts, global poverty has remained on the agenda of the House.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
For 31 years, Democrat Nancy Pelosi has represented California in the House of Representatives, specifically Districts 5, 8 and 12. On top of that, Pelosi has served as the Speaker of the House for the 111th and 112th Congresses from 2007 to 2011 and is currently serving her third term after she was re-elected to the position in 2019. Throughout her time she has cosponsored 235 bills relating to international affairs, foreign trade and international finance.
One of the key issues that she strives to address is the environment. For example, one initiative signed into law was the “Pelosi Amendment.” The amendment, attached to the Ecosystem and Indigenous Peoples Protection Act of 1989, requires global financial development institutions to analyze the environmental impact of potential projects. In the past, she has voted in favor of bills supporting funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. She has also voted to support the International Monetary Fund relieving debt in third-world countries and the United Nations Population Fund.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Serving Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, Democrat Steny Hoyer represents his constituents and his fellow Democrats on the House floor as the Majority Leader. In his past, he served as the Chair and Ranking Democrat on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This position promotes human rights, defends persecuted people and monitors actions done by foreign governments. As a member, he became a committed advocate for “human rights, individual freedoms, democracy and religious liberties.”
In his career, he has cosponsored 93 bills relating to international affairs, of which 13 became law. He has also voted in favor of bills relating to foreign aid or poverty-reduction legislation like funding the IMF to relieve debts of third-world countries and supporting democratic institutions in Pakistan.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
As a Republican, Kevin McCarthy represents California’s 23rd District in the House. He has done so ever since 2006 when he was first elected. Now, he also serves as the leader for the Republicans on the House floor.
McCarthy recognizes the importance of foreign policy, saying in a 2015 speech that “effective foreign policy is not about effort. It’s measured by success.” Recently, he showed support for acts concerning the freedoms of people in Hong Kong and the ethnic group of the Uyghurs. Foreign bills that he votes against tend to pertain to removing military forces from areas like Yemen and Iran. However, he also voted against funding democracy in Pakistan, which in some ways can be a vote against poverty-reduction legislation because traditionally increasing democracy decreases poverty.
All three of these representatives advocate in some capacity for global poverty-reduction legislation. Whether that is through the environment, defense spending or human rights. For us to achieve more progress, it is important to remember the power constituents have over our representatives. Emailing, calling and writing letters to representatives all portray the valued opinion of a constituent to a legislator.
– Adrianna Tomasello