- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she had “no regrets” about jabbing at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other rebellious freshmen Democrats, adding fuel to a feud that is straining party unity.

Mrs. Pelosi’s lieutenants this week were hoping to patch over the fight, which has spilled into the public in spectacular fashion with interviews and countertweets, saying it’s an internal family matter and insisting that House Democrats are still pulling in the same direction.

But the combatants — Mrs. Pelosi on one side and the four freshmen, all women of color, on the other — are still going at it.

“I have no regrets about anything. Regrets is not what I do,” said Mrs. Pelosi, defending her comments over the weekend minimizing the political weight of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Mrs. Pelosi lashed out after those four voted against a Democratic border spending bill last month, denting the party’s hopes of a unanimous message. The speaker told The New York Times that the four women “have their public whatever and their Twitter world” but “didn’t have any following” inside Congress.



On Wednesday Mrs. Pelosi said that was accurate: They were the only four to vote against Democrats’ version of the border spending bill.

She also seemed to suggest the women’s staffers were going too far with attacks on those who voted for the border funding.

“By the way, our caucus is very upset about some of the comments from the staff,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

She didn’t specify what the offense was, but Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff drew attention on his Twitter account by sharing posts suggesting primary challenges against Democrats who backed a bipartisan border spending bill. He also went after Mrs. Pelosi by tweeting that “she got outmaneuvered (again) by Republicans.”

When asked whether she would tell her staff to dial down the rhetoric on Twitter, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez appeared to brush off the comment and said everybody “can chill.”
Democrats huddled Wednesday morning for their weekly full caucus meeting, where Mrs. Pelosi urged her troops to keep their grievances private.

“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it,” Mrs. Pelosi said, according to Politico. “But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that is just OK.”

A Pelosi staffer confirmed the statement but took to Twitter to say it wasn’t a scolding but rather a suggestion to talk out disputes in person rather than sniping online.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez argued that the speaker was taking offense at the wrong issue.

“It’s unfortunate what gets interpreted as an attack,” she told reporters. “When we approve $5 billion to agencies that are killing kids and I represent a district that’s 50% immigrant, my families and communities feel attacked.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said other internal problems need to be worked out.

“I am concerned about the policy fights that we’re having,” she told The Washington Times. “I think that progressives sometimes get called out on a lot of things, but I’m concerned about how do we make sure we don’t have Democrats that vote for [motions to recommit]? How do we make sure we don’t have Democrats that vote with Republicans to pull a House bill?”

Ms. Omar told reporters that it’s not her responsibility to keep the caucus happy.

“Whipping votes is the job of leadership and making sure there is support for legislation,” she said. “We get to vote on behalf of our constituents. Our job isn’t to make sure that we have our colleagues voting a certain way, and I hope leadership understands their role and understands what our role is.”

The tension between Mrs. Pelosi and the freshmen has been building since soon after the November elections, with occasional eruptions as the party grapples with passing bills.

Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island, the Democrats’ messaging chair, told reporters that reports of tension are overblown.

“I know this is of great interest to the media, but the reality is that we’re a big, a very diverse caucus and that is one of our great strengths,” he said. “The people in our caucus are going to have different views on a number of issues and there will be conversations about which is the right approach.”

Several members said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat behind Mrs. Pelosi, tried to calm the tension during Wednesday’s caucus meeting by urging everyone to focus on their shared agenda.

The next test for Mrs. Pelosi will be on the annual defense policy bill this week.

Democrats have written a $733 billion measure, which is short of the $750 billion President Trump requested but more than many liberals would like.

Democratic leaders, though, appear to have made headway in persuading lawmakers to back the bill.

Rep. Gilbert Ray Cisneros Jr., California Democrat and a member of the Congressional Progressive Congress, said liberals are starting to realize Mrs. Pelosi’s price tag is the best they are likely to get.

“I think overall everybody understands that this is the best deal that we could get, that $733 [billion] is the right number,” he told The Times.

Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky of Illinois, a senior liberal member and prominent ally of Mrs. Pelosi, has been leading the charge to get other liberals on board.

She told reporters that four amendments being considered will smooth over some concerns that liberals have, including paid family leave for federal employees.

Ms. Jayapal said those amendments are the linchpins for her caucus’ support and remained noncommittal.

“I just think it depends on what passes,” she said.

Mrs. Pelosi will need the liberals’ support because she is unlikely to get any Republicans to support the bill, which is usually overwhelmingly bipartisan. This year, though, Republican leaders say the Democrats’ bill tilts so far to the left that it’s not likely to attract any Republican votes.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, called the looming defense vote “the defining point that it’s not the Democratic Party of the past.”

“This is a new socialist Democratic Party,” he told reporters.

Mr. Hoyer predicted success even without Republicans on board and said the vote will be proof of Democratic unity.

“You’ll see on the defense bill. We’re going to pass the defense bill. And that’s a tough bill to pass because there’s some strong feelings on that,” he said.

⦁ Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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