Tensions between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) and the freshmen progressives in her party are starting to boil over.
It was clear from the beginning that “the squad,” comprised of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07), wasn’t going to make things easy for Pelosi.
For one thing, she’s repeatedly had to defend Omar and Tlaib against claims of anti-Semitism. The squad wants impeachment proceedings, while Pelosi would prefer to wait things out. Some members of the squad called for new leadership and would’ve liked to see Pelosi go.
The Pelosi-squad schism has been the subject of several articles out of The New York Times and The Washington Post in the past few days. The squad’s vote against the House’s border-funding bill, which Pelosi called “our bill,” plus an “offensive” tweet from Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff that compared moderate Democrats to segregationists, are both factors that are threatening to bring the spat over the edge.
“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi said of the squad in a recent interview with The New York Times. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”
“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK,” Pelosi reportedly said.
Ocasio-Cortez claimed in response that Pelosi is “singling out” newly elected “women of color.”
“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,” she said. “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.”
The Post interviewed lawmakers, congressional aides, and allies, who said the four women are struggling to respond to Pelosi’s attempts to isolate them in recent weeks.
“This is an inevitable tension between a few progressives with one priority, which is their ideology, and a speaker with many priorities, including preserving the majority in the House, electing a Democratic president against Trump, and responding to the consensus of her caucus,” he said. “To the extent that it distracts from Donald Trump and becomes a circular firing squad among Democrats, it can be lethal.”
Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Pelosi may be trying to sideline the squad by giving them busy work and keeping them out of the spotlight.
“I was assigned to two of some of the busiest committees and four subcommittees,” she said. “So my hands are full. And sometimes I wonder if they’re trying to keep me busy.”
During a Thursday press conference, Pelosi defended her handling of the situation and said she has the support of her caucus.
“Our members took offense at that,” she said in regards the tweet out of Ocasio-Cortez’s office. “I addressed that.”
Apart from a few tweets, Omar has remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the matter. Those close to the Minnesota lawmaker told The Post that she “looks up to Pelosi” and has “enjoyed a positive relationship” with her, so was disappointed with her recent comments.
Justice Democrats, a progressive PAC that helped elect members of the squad, issued a statement Thursday calling Pelosi’s behavior “totally out of line.”
“We cannot believe that Pelosi doesn’t realize how bad of a precedent this is. She’s singling out four new leaders who are progressive women of color, and are already under constant attack by Fox News, racists, and conservatives at large,” the statement added. “But if we buckle down, organize like hell, and fight for progressive Justice Democrats across the country, maybe we will in 2020.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ilhan Omar” by Ilhan Omar. Photo “Nancy Pelosi” by Nancy Pelosi.