On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to close the door on questions regarding the ongoing feud with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left Democrats, which appears to be escalating.
Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez have repeatedly clashed during the freshman lawmaker’s brief time in Congress, with Ocasio-Cortez having recently implied that Pelosi and other Democrats’ views may be rooted in racism toward “newly elected women of color.”
Since retaking control of the House during the 2018 midterm elections, Pelosi has had her work cut out for her as she attempts to reign in the Democratic Party which has struggled with division and what looks to be a crisis of identity.
From The Hill:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she was done talking in public about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the tensions roiling her caucus after the New York lawmaker criticized her in an interview with The Washington Post.
Pelosi at her weekly press conference said she’d said what she wanted to say at a closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday and refused to engage much with reporters asking her about the fight that has dominated the week in Congress.
And she shrugged off any offense that Ocasio-Cortez or the three other members of the so-called progressive freshman “Squad” might have taken from her remarks.
“They took offense because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the members’ offices that referenced our Blue Dogs and our New Dems essentially as segregationists,” Pelosi said. “Our members took offense at that. I addressed that. How they’re interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them.”
“But I’m not going to be discussing it any further,” Pelosi said. “I said what I’m going to say.”
The tweet Pelosi referred to was sent Saturday by Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, and has since been deleted.
It described the centrist Democrats as “new Southern Democrats” that “certainly seem hell bent to do black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”
Pelosi on Thursday said the tweet offended a number of Democrats, and that she had to respond to it.
Tensions between Pelosi and liberals in the caucus have been swirling for days. They have centered on Ocasio-Cortez and three of her closest allies, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley(D-Mass.). All four are freshmen and women of color known as the “Squad.”
After Pelosi scolded the caucus at Wednesday morning’s closed-door meeting, saying they should keep criticisms of one another out of public, Ocasio-Cortez in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday night accused Pelosi of singling out women of color for criticism.
“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the interview. “But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”
Members were buzzing about those remarks throughout the day on Thursday, and Pelosi was asked about them twice at her weekly press conference.
She said her remarks the day before, criticizing the tweet, had been well-received from the full Democratic caucus, and that she saw the group’s diversity as a strength.
“What I said in the caucus yesterday got an overwhelming response from my members because they know what the facts are and what we’re responding to. We respect the value of every member of our caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power,” Pelosi said.
In her comments to the Post, Ocasio-Cortez also said Pelosi’s most recent shots at the “Squad” in an interview with The New York Times felt like part of a pattern.
Most recently, Pelosi had told the New York Times in a column last week that the four freshmen had limited influence given that they were the only ones to vote against House Democrats’ bill last month to provide resources for agencies handling the flow of migrants at the border.
“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.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressed sympathy toward Ocasio-Cortez, saying that she has also felt targeted as as a woman of color in public life.
“I can tell you that it happens all the time. It isn’t usually from just one person. The system is geared in that way,” Jayapal said.
Jayapal said that she and her fellow Progressive Caucus co-chair, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), are requesting a meeting with Pelosi to try to smooth things over with progressives. The meeting has not yet been scheduled.
“I think it’s just important that we clear this,” Jayapal said. “Mark Pocan and I have asked for a meeting with her not just to talk about this, but to talk about the general relationship of the progressives to the Democratic caucus.”
But other progressive Democrats sided with Pelosi.
“I think it’s really not accurate to call them the ‘squad,'” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “It’s not like they, you know, they see themselves as a squad and get together and say, ‘Now, what’s our next move?'”