Ohio Democrats help launch ‘Heartland Caucus’ in Congress

WASHINGTON, DC — A new effort is underway to give the Midwest a louder voice on Capitol Hill.

what you need to know

  • Several Ohio congressmen on Wednesday helped start a new caucus focused on the Midwest
  • The Heartland Caucus will aim to increase Midwest influence on Capitol Hill
  • Long-time Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur hopes the group can help bring more funding to the Great Lakes
  • Kaptur and other Midwest Democrats often point out that most of the leadership in Congress is from the Coasts

On Wednesday, several Ohio lawmakers helped form what is known as the “Heartland Caucus.” It’s a group of House Democrats from Midwestern states who hope the unification will raise their collective voice in Congress.

“We need to speak louder and more forcefully,” said Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat and the longest-serving woman in congressional history.

In the halls of Congress, it’s still fairly common to hear people refer to the Midwest as a “passover country,” so the group hopes to change that through a formal organization.

“During my tenure here, much of the leadership has come from the shores. And you can look at the lead today versus a few years ago and you can see who’s missing. We’re generally missed in this part of the country,” said Kaptur, D-Ohio’s 9th Ward, at Wednesday’s launch event, which she helped organize.

In addition to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the leaders of both parties in the House of Representatives and Senate are from New York or California.

Last November, a POLITICO reporter tweeted a map compiled by Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell to show where in the country her party’s House of Representatives and committee leadership comes from. It was an attempt to show how the middle of the country is left out.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Ohio freshman Emilia Sykes of D-Ohio’s 13th ward reiterated those concerns.

“Ohio has been left out of the national conversation for too long,” she said.

Members hope the new caucus will address issues such as providing adequate funding for the Great Lakes.

Earlier this month, Kaptur told Spectrum News that cities like Toledo and Cleveland are struggling to keep the lakes clean and functioning because taxpayers’ money is being diverted elsewhere.

“The burden on these cities for environmental investments is enormous. And it’s running into billions of dollars,” Kaptur said. “They don’t have the money for that. So what happens is they issue bonds and then they have to pay interest on them forever, right? What we have to do is take that burden.”

Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio’s 3rd Circuit, said during Wednesday’s event that standing up for Heartland doesn’t mean going against the rest of the party, especially since the new caucus also has to figure out how to deal with the new one Republicans should negotiate House majority.

“We stand firm with our Democratic colleagues, whether from the East, the West or the South. So it’s about unity, not division,” she said. “It’s about recognition.”

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