The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) was founded in 1991 by Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist who had recently been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Sanders’ CPC co-founders included House members Ron Dellums, Lane Evans, Thomas Andrews, Peter DeFazio, and Maxine Waters. The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) was also involved in CPC’s founding and in Caucus activities thereafter; IPS continues to advise CPC on various matters to this day.
Another key player in establishing CPC was the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which has maintained a close alliance with the Caucus ever since. In 1997, DSA’s political director, Chris Riddiough, organized a meeting with CPC leaders to discuss how the two groups might be able to “unite our forces on a common agenda.” Among those who participated in the meeting were Bernie Sanders, labor leader Richard Trumka, professor Noam Chomsky, feminist Patricia Ireland, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Senator Paul Wellstone, journalist William Greider, and the socialist author Barbara Ehrenreich.
According to WorldNetDaily, DSA served as the host of CPC’s website until 2002, at which time—shortly after a media expose of the link between the two organizations—CPC established its own website under the auspices of the U.S. Congress. The close ideological ties between CPC and DSA continued unabated, however.
Beginning in 1997, CPC worked closely with the newly launched Progressive Challenge, an Institute for Policy Studies-created coalition of more than 100 leftist organizations that sought to unite their activities and objectives under a “multi-issue progressive agenda.”
On November 11, 1999, CPC drafted a vital Position Paper on economic inequality, which called for “legislative initiatives” to combat the “income and wealth disparities” that “distor[t] our democracy, destabiliz[e] the economy, and erod[e] our social and cultural fabric.” Lamenting that “two and a half decades of government policies and rules governing the economy” had been “tilted in favor of large asset owners at the expense of wage earners,” the document derided the “pro-investor bias” of America’s existing “tax policy, trade policy, monetary policy, [and] government regulations.”
In 2005 CPC spelled out its political agendas in what would become its signature document, the “Progressive Promise.” Therein, the Caucus emphasizes its commitment to four major priorities: Economic Justice and Security; Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; Global Peace and Security; and Environmental Protection & Energy Independence. Under the rubric of these items fall a number of additional key CPC objectives, such as these:
A 2002 report by Joelle Fishman, chair of the Communist Party USA‘s Political Action Committee, stated that the Progressive Caucus “provides an important lever that can be used to advance workers’ issues and move the debate to the left in every Congressional District in the country.” In a 2010 CPUSA report, Party member David Bell identified Progressive Caucus members as his organization’s “allies in Congress.”
In October 2009, the Socialist Party of America announced that at least 70 Congressional Democrats were members of its Caucus at that time—i.e., members of the Democratic Socialists of America. Most of those individuals belonged to the Congressional Progressive Caucus and/or the Congressional Black Caucus.
As of March 2015, CPC consisted of 68 members of the House of Representatives—all of them leftist Democrats—and one U.S. Senator (Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucused with the Democrats).
For a comprehensive list of all CPC members (and links to their respective profiles), click here.
Further Reading: “Congressional Progressive Caucus” (Keywiki.org); “The Progressive Promise” (by CHC, 2005); “American Socialists Release Names of 70 Congressional Democrats in Their Ranks” (Gateway Pundit, 8-13-2010); “Sanders One of 69 Democrat Socialists in Congress” (WorldNetDaily, 7-31-2015).