Pelosi urges unity among Democrats
House speaker warns against Twitter attacks on fellow party members
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.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill, has faced criticism from first-term liberal Democrats.
First-term U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter.