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.

San Francisco Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Tal Kopan

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.”

An­drew Harnik / As­so­ci­ated Press

Su­san Walsh / As­so­ci­ated Press

Pro­gres­sive Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio­Cortez is of­ten at the cen­ter of dis­putes with the Demo­cratic cau­cus’ mod­er­ate wing.

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