Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi rebuked the Democrats for attacking each other, warning Wednesday at an in camera meeting that the party split was endangering her majority.
Without naming names, his target was clear: the four liberal freshmen known as "The Squad".
"Do you have a complaint? You come to talk to me about that. But do not tweet about our members and expect that to be considered correct, "Pelosi (D-Calif.) Told Democrats.
But "the team" – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) And Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) – is convinced that it is Pelosi who is the # 39; bully.
According to interviews with lawmakers, congressional aides and their allies, the four people are battling the speaker's attempts to isolate them in recent weeks. Pelosi has made at least half a dozen remarks rejecting the group or its far-left proposals on the environment and health care. More recently, she despised their lone opposition to the party's emergency bill last month.
And she defended these comments Wednesday saying, "I do not regret anything. Regrets, this is not what I do, "complaining that the group does not have much power in the House.
"When these comments started for the first time, I understood that she was keeping the progressive flank further away from the arm in order to protect the more moderate members, which I understood", Ocasio-Cortez told the Washington Post. "But persistence singularize. . . he arrived at a point where it was simply disrespectful. . . the explicit choice of newly elected women of color. "
The four women try to figure out how to react, texting each other and wondering if they should face Pelosi to ask him to stop. But for the moment, they are focused on their homework in Congress, even though they defend their votes in the House that attracted Pelosi's irritation.
"Thank God, my mother gave me broad shoulders and a strong back. I can do it. I do not worry about myself, "said Pressley, who called Pelosi's comments" demoralizing. " I am worried about the signal sent to the people I am talking to and for whom, who sent me here with a warrant, and how it affects them. "
Tensions underscore the political and generational divide between the most powerful woman in American politics, who has been leading the Democrats in the House for over 16 years, and the new Liberal group calling for change and trying to push the party to the left . Pelosi spent more than 30 years perfecting an indoor game to win victories for his party, including the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The four first-year lawmakers, on the other hand, have built an impressive number of online followers. and exercised their power outside, especially in the 2020 presidential race.
Their ability to work together – or their refusal to do so – will have important consequences for Democrats seeking to overthrow President Trump and retain their majority in next year's elections. Pelosi knows that the fate of his majority depends on the moderate Democrats who won the seats held by Republicans in mid-term elections last year.
"A majority is a fragile thing," she said, according to two attendees who spoke under cover of anonymity to describe the private meeting, adding that members should demonstrate a "certain level of respect and sensitivity" towards more moderate people. colleagues: "You are targeting me, but do not do our [moderates] the target in all this, because we have important fish to fry. "
According to the speaker's allies, concerns over the upcoming elections drive her to isolate these four women.
"Sometimes a leader has to take positions to keep the team [united]Said Representative Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.). "She knows what brought us here and what will keep us here."
Pelosi suggested to columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, in an opinion piece published Saturday, that "the team" had a limited audience inside the House. She specifically cited the example of the Democratic Boundary Bill passed by the House at the end of June, to which the group opposed.
"All these people have their audience, no matter what their world and their Twitter universe," Pelosi said in an interview with The New York Times. "But they did not have followers. They are four people and that's how many votes they got. "
Several caucus members were uncomfortable with Pelosi's comments. Progressive congressional caucus leaders are expected to speak with Pelosi about his comments, according to two officials familiar with the project. Other women of color in the House have also expressed concerns.
"I can not tell the speaker to apologize, but I was surprised. Because we are all here to work together, "said Representative Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), The first black woman to represent her state in Congress.
Hayes, Ocasio-Cortez and Omar appeared alongside Pelosi, smiling on the cover of Rolling Stone in a photo taken in January.
Although some of them have more diplomatic relations with Pelosi, the relations between Ocasio-Cortez and the speaker have been delicate from the beginning. After upsetting Representative Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) in the Democratic primary, Pelosi immediately downplayed his victory by saying that it was a unique event.
Still, Pelosi tried to create a bridge with the New Yorker: in their first face-to-face meeting just before the mid-term elections, Pelosi spent nearly two hours convincing the liberal that she was just like her, extolling her origins. It was around this time that Ocasio-Cortez agreed not only to support Pelosi as a lecturer, but also to vocally defend her against rebels trying to keep her from office.
Now, six months later, virtually all communication between the two women has stopped. The two have not met face-to-face since February, when Ocasio-
Cortez refused Pelosi's personal request to join his special committee on climate change, according to people who know both lawmakers.
A few days later, at a private caucus meeting, Pelosi distinguished Ocasio-Cortez in front of his colleagues and called for rejecting the restricted committee's offer. Ocasio-Cortez had publicly criticized the leaders for refusing to give the committee the power to draft a bill directly.
Since then, Pelosi has made several dismissive remarks about Ocasio-Cortez, calling his Green New Deal "The Green Dream", and suggesting that a "glass of water" running as a democrat could win in neighborhoods as liberal as his.
"The third and fourth time [she insulted me]it was useless, but I will not fight for it. Regardless, I will be the punching bag if that's what they want me to be, "Ocasio said.
Cortez said. But now people are saying in the first year to talk to Pelosi. She does not want to, however.
"Let's be honest, there has not really been a relationship," she said. "It's difficult."
According to his relatives, Omar was also disappointed. The Minnesota lawmaker admires Pelosi and has a positive relationship with the speaker, despite her criticism of Israel, which has caused great agitation within the party. Even then, however, Pelosi warned Omar before reprimanding him publicly.
In one of her first interviews with Pelosi after winning her primary, Omar told Pelosi that she could not vote on screen because of a ban on wearing a headgear in the House. Pelosi promised to change the rules so he could wear his hijab on Capitol Hill.
For Tlaib, Pelosi's latest comment is a mixed message – a message that seems to contradict Pelosi's advice at a meeting early in his tenure. "Represent your district," recalls Tlaib. "And that's exactly what I do."
A few hours after her main victory in August, Tlaib ruffled feathers by saying in an interview with CNN that she probably would not support Pelosi as an orator. But Pelosi, directly and through middlemen, worked during the following months to keep her mind open, and Tlaib finally voted for her.
Tlaib then won a seat on the Financial Services Committee, a plum mission for a freshman in a safe democratic district. And even as she attracted the attention of the media, Pelosi seemed to recover her. When Tlaib was filmed, telling a crowd of supporters in vulgar terms that the legislators would dismiss President Trump, Pelosi made only weak public criticism.
"Everything she says will not impact my work," Tlaib said of Pelosi's comments this weekend. "I will continue to introduce laws and policies."
However, some lawmakers and assistants feel that the treatment of this group by Pelosi has a discreet effect on them. Many activists thought that the group would unite to form a type of Freedom caucus aiming to win victories for the left, but they have not done so yet and appear almost on the defensive when Pelosi criticizes them.
They also did not try to vote against a major leadership priority, such as the Border Bill, or strong House support for impeachment, an idea rejected by Pelosi. And they refused to call Pelosi by name because she dismissed liberal political priorities such as Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal, publicly rejecting them under the name of "Enthusiasts" and D & # 39; # 39; "exuberances" rather than viable political prescriptions.
"She chooses her words carefully. She does not speak badly, "said representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Close friend of Pelosi. "There is a big difference between being a lawyer and being a legislator."
Asked why she did not face Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez said she did not know what to do.
"I find it a little strange that leadership does not want us to try to have a conversation about a message, even if it's a message – but we are only freshmen, is not it? "