Pelosi moves to quell Dems’ infighting, trolling
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco speaks to reporters after meeting with fellow Democrats and hashing out disputes that have been roiling moderates and progressives in her caucus.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to calm her caucus Wednesday amid increasingly open squabbles over the direction Democrats should take, calling out lawmakers who have been going public with their grievances.
“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it,” Pelosi said behind closed doors at a meeting in the Capitol, according to a source who was in the room. “But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK.”
A spokesman for the San Francisco Democrat insisted the comments were directed caucuswide and not at any particular member or faction, though at least one progressive member interpreted it as a shot at firstterm New York Rep. Alexandria OcasioCortez, a rising star on the left with a Twitter following of more than 4 million.
Pelosi delivered her speech about the need for unity and keeping “moments in your family” out of the public eye as she is facing pushback to some of her comments about prominent House progressives. Some
moderate Democrats have also chafed at progressives’ recent criticism of them on social media.
The speaker made her remarks during a Wednesday morning weekly meeting of House Democrats. According to the source in the room, who shared details on condition of anonymity to reveal the content of the internal discussion, Pelosi spoke at length about the value of Democrats playing as a team and focusing any anger on Republicans, not each other.
She also addressed the House’s capitulation just before the July 4 recess to the Senate version of a bill that gave the Trump administration billions to address skyrocketing numbers of migrants, many of them families and children, trying to enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. Pelosi and many other House Democrats had been pushing for changes to the Senate bill to add more oversight and restrictions on the administration’s ability to use the money, but a revolt from a group of Democratic moderates forced passage of the Senate bill instead.
Pelosi suggested that the Senate bill was better than nothing.
“To have nothing go to the children — I just couldn’t do that,” Pelosi told the Democratic caucus Wednesday. “I’m here to help the children when it’s easy and when it’s hard. Some of you are here to make a beautiful pâté, but we’re making sausage most of the time.”
Tensions have been building since before the July 4 break over the border fight. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat who cochairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted that the moderates who forced the House to swallow the Senate bill had “become the Child Abuse Caucus” and that “kids are the only ones who could lose today.”
OcasioCortez’s chief of staff posted, then later deleted, a tweet saying moderate Democrats “seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.” Pelosi did obliquely refer to that tweet Wednesday, telling Democrats to instruct their staffs to “think twice” about what they tweet.
The argument took on a more personal tone when Pelosi told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in a piece published over the weekend that she wasn’t worried about concerns about her leadership from OcasioCortez and fellow prominent progressive firstterm Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”
OcasioCortez later tweeted, “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment. And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.”
Tlaib told ABC News on Sunday that “it is very disappointing that the speaker would ever try to diminish our voices in so many ways.”
Pelosi stood by the comments Wednesday, telling reporters she had “no regrets.”
OcasioCortez’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Pelosi’s latest remarks, but she and fellow members of the group colloquially referred to as the “squad” tweeted critically about others who want to pit women against each other.
One moderate Democratic member, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters, said Pelosi was speaking on behalf of many in her caucus who are frustrated with what they see as the four members’ efforts to bring attention to themselves without showing willingness to work with the party to achieve their goals.
In the meeting, Pelosi defended some moderate lawmakers who “have to fight the fight for their reelection,” urging “some level of respect and sensitivity for our — each individual experience that we bring to this caucus.”
She welcomed lawmakers to aim any frustration directly at her, rather than moderates and new lawmakers who flipped swing districts in last year’s elections and face tough campaigns in 2020.
“I take responsibility,” Pelosi said. “You make me the target, but don’t make our Blue Dogs and our New Dems the target in all of this,” she added, using terms for coalitions of centrist Democrats. “Because we have important fish to fry.”
It’s unclear whether Pelosi’s comments did anything to close the rift within the party. The House will consider an annual mustpass defense authorization bill this week, a topic that could divide progressives who oppose growing defense spending and foreign intervention from moderates who are more supportive of military spending.
Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly told CNN after the meeting Wednesday that “tempers have cooled” since the July 4 holiday, and Democrats know “we can’t be fighting amongst ourselves.”
San Rafael Rep. Jared Huffman similarly downplayed any notion of a major split in the party.
“There is gambling in Casablanca, and there are personal frictions and fault lines in any caucus,” Huffman said. “But I think they’re often amplified and their significance is not as great as some of the stories would suggest.”
Progressive Rep. Alexandria OcasioCortez is often at the center of disputes with the Democratic caucus’ moderate wing.