U.S. congressman Cedric Richmond brings practical streak to Biden White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana brings a decade of experience in the House of Representatives, including some outreach to Republicans, to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration at a time Democrats will need that skill set.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup on H.R. 7120, the “Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 17, 2020. Erin Scott/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The former co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign, Richmond has led the liberal-leaning Congressional Black Caucus and is also a member of the New Democrat Coalition that has ties to the business community and attempts to bridge the gap in an increasingly partisan Congress.

Biden on Tuesday named here Richmond, 47, as a senior adviser and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, as he tries to advance economic stimulus, climate change mitigation and law enforcement reforms in what will be a narrowly divided Congress.

Richmond is in some ways in the mold of Biden, a former U.S. senator and vice president with deep connections in Congress who has burnished a reputation as a politician willing to cut deals with Republicans.

“This new role will allow me to offer advice to the president when he wants it, maybe sometime when he doesn’t want it,” Richmond told a news conference in New Orleans.

Citing the poverty, poor healthcare and lagging education that have plagued Louisiana and neighboring states for generations, Richmond said: “I look forward to changing not only Louisiana but the entire South and empowering its citizens.”

Democrats in this month’s elections made progress in some Southern states where Republicans have had a lock for decades.

In Congress, Richmond, 47, worked on a range of issues with assignments on committees including Judiciary, Homeland Security and, more recently, the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Richmond said on Tuesday that he would resign from his congressional seat sometime in January – before Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in on Jan. 20.

Biden will face an immediate crisis in the coronavirus pandemic.

Richmond has ties to House Republicans and especially to fellow Louisianan, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who he served with in the state legislature before coming to Washington.

Despite his bipartisan streak, Richmond warned that he would play hardball to advance Biden’s “aggressive” agenda.

“I can talk to Speaker Pelosi and Whip Clyburn any day all day and just run over Steve if I need to,” Richmond said with a smile, referring to Scalise, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip James Clyburn.

While Biden was victorious in the Nov. 3 presidential election, House Democrats suffered some defeats, leaving them with a much narrower majority.

Richmond’s seat will have to be filled in a special election, which Democrats are expected to win , as Richmond easily won a sixth term earlier this month with about 65% of the vote in a district that encompasses New Orleans and parts of Baton Rouge and is about two-thirds Black.

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