Pelosi urges unity among Democrats

House speaker warns against Twit­ter at­tacks on fel­low party mem­bers

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Julie Hirschfeld Davis

WASH­ING­TON >> House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, work­ing to re­store comity after her dis­pute with four lib­eral fresh­men burst into the open, made an ex­traor­di­nary closed-door plea for Demo­cratic unity Wed­nes­day and sharply re­buked those who have made per­sonal at­tacks against fel­low Democrats.

In fiery re­marks dur­ing the weekly morn­ing meet­ing of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus, Pelosi de­fended her de­ci­sion last month to push through an emer­gency bor­der aid pack­age that many pro­gres­sives said lacked suf­fi­cient restric­tions on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. She ar­gued that Democrats should train their ire on Repub­li­cans rather than pur­su­ing a fam­ily feud that she said

only played into the other party’s hands.

Without nam­ing her, Pelosi ap­peared to sin­gle out Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sioCortez of New York, who has taken to Twit­ter to crit­i­cize the speaker and whose chief of staff has in re­cent weeks used the so­cial me­dia plat­form to ques­tion the speaker’s lead­er­ship and sug­gest that cen­trist Democrats were racist.

“You got a com­plaint? You come and talk to me about it,” Pelosi told Democrats, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple in the room who de­scribed her re­marks on the condition of anonymity. “But do not tweet about our mem­bers and ex­pect us to think that that is just OK.”

The speech, which at­ten­dees said drew a stand­ing ova­tion from law­mak­ers

in the room, was a no­table mo­ment for Pelosi and House Democrats, who are grap­pling in real time with how to best use their frac­tious ma­jor­ity and whose ties have been tested and strained in de­bates over im­peach­ment, im­mi­gra­tion, cli­mate change and health care pol­icy.

As Pelosi spoke, Democrats were toil­ing to reach a con­sen­sus on an ex­ten­sive de­fense pol­icy mea­sure, which has drawn skep­ti­cism from lib­eral law­mak­ers who want to in­clude ad­di­tional con­di­tions on Trump’s pow­ers to take uni­lat­eral mil­i­tary ac­tion and limit his power to keep troops at the south­west­ern bor­der.

The di­vides have been dra­ma­tized in re­cent days after Pelosi gave an in­ter­view ques­tion­ing the leg­isla­tive clout of Oca­sio-Cortez and three other first­term law­mak­ers who make up what has come to be

known as “the squad” — Reps. Il­han Omar of Min­nesota, Ayanna Press­ley of Mas­sachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michi­gan. The New York con­gress­woman then struck back by sug­gest­ing that they, not the speaker, were the true lead­ers in the Demo­cratic Party.

Saikat Chakrabart­i, Oca­sio-Cortez’s chief of staff, added fuel to the fire with a se­ries of tweets crit­i­ciz­ing the speaker, a re­mark­able breach of pro­to­col for an un­elected con­gres­sional aide.

Late last month, he deleted a tweet com­par­ing Demo­cratic mod­er­ates who backed a less re­stric­tive hu­man­i­tar­ian aid bill to seg­re­ga­tion­ists, call­ing them the “New South­ern Democrats,” and adding, “They cer­tainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown peo­ple to­day what the old South­ern Democrats did in the 40s.”

As Pelosi emerged from

the meet­ing Wed­nes­day, she did not back down from the spat or the com­ments that helped to fuel it.

“I have no re­grets about any­thing,” she told re­porters. “Re­grets is not what I do.”

Both Pelosi and Oca­sioCortez have said the ar­gu­ment

is not about them in­di­vid­u­ally or any per­sonal an­i­mos­ity that ex­ists be­tween them — they have not had a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion since Jan­uary — but about the con­stituen­cies they rep­re­sent.

Oca­sio-Cortez says she took of­fense at the speaker’s re­marks be­cause they im­plied that her con­stituents, and mem­bers of the broader pro­gres­sive move­ment who share her views, are ir­rel­e­vant.

“It’s not about four peo­ple,” she said Tues­day. “It’s about the mil­lions of peo­ple that we were elected to rep­re­sent. And the idea that we can just dis­miss peo­ple from the Bronx be­cause they’re from the Bronx is, I think, counter to who we are as a party.”

Pelosi in­sisted that she did not mind be­ing a light­ning rod for crit­i­cism, but said she wanted to pro­tect the more mod­er­ate Democrats in the Blue Dog Coali­tion and the New Demo­crat Coali­tion, many of whom rep­re­sent Repub­li­can-leaning dis­tricts. Those mem­bers are con­stantly faced with the pos­si­bil­ity that a vote they cast could harm their chances, and the party’s chances, of hold­ing the House, she said.

AN­DREW HARNIK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speak­ing to re­porters Wed­nes­day on Capi­tol Hill, has faced crit­i­cism from first-term lib­eral Democrats.

J. SCOTT AP­PLE­WHITE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

First-term U.S. Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has crit­i­cized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twit­ter.

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