Democrats in the House exploded Thursday in retaliation against the moderates, with liberal Republican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threatening to put those who voted Republicans "on a list" as a primary challenge.
At an in camera session, frustrated President Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Criticized about two dozen moderates and forced them to join them. "We are either a team or we are not, and we have to make that decision," Pelosi said, according to two people present but unauthorized for public discussion.
But Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), the undisputed media superstar in the freshman class, raised the stakes, warning moderates and saying it would help Liberal activists overthrow them in elections of 2020.
Corbin Trent, spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, told his colleagues that Democrats who side with the Republicans "put themselves on a list."
"She said that when activists ask her why she should vote for a gun safety bill that gives more power to an organization that forcibly injects psychotropic substances into the children, they will want a list of names and she give it to them. , "Trent said, referring to US immigration and customs enforcement.
Wednesday's vote on a bill to expand federal background checks for firearms purchases triggered an explosion. Twenty-six moderate Democrats joined the Republicans to amend the legislation, adding a provision requiring ICE to be notified if an illegal immigrant was looking for a firearm.
Exasperated liberals who opposed the role of the ICE in conducting massive deportations and embarrassed Democratic leaders who could not keep their members in the right path with a high-profile bill.
The internal quarrels with the Democrats reflect a fractured caucus and a diverse first-year class, with dozens of moderates elected in districts that President Trump won in 2016, in contradiction with Liberals. tenacious. The split revealed the divisions between Pelosi and his main lieutenants, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) And Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC), about the party's strategy of to maintain its new majority.
Republicans took advantage of the divide by using legislative tactics to separate politically vulnerable moderates from party leadership. In the coming months, votes on health care, the environment and spending bills could provoke extreme rifts in the ranks of Democrats.
While the party's left wing has garnered overwhelming attention for its aggressive moves to push Democrats in their direction, the dissident faction is made up of party moderates, many of whom are freshmen winning their first congressional vote. .
They insist that they will not be dissuaded from voting with their districts and many warn that control of the majority is at stake.
"It's this category of elected members that's why we have a majority," said Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Moderate Coalition. "Many of them come from these [moderate] Districts, and their promise to their constituents was that they were going to put people above politics. "
In the Democratic meeting, one of these freshmen – Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.) – reacted strongly to Ocasio-Cortez's comments and urged his colleagues to respect the political reality of representing a dynamic district, according to several people present. A Torres Small spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Several are also pushing to reform or eliminate the procedural tactics that provoked the turmoil – the "re-engagement motion", which essentially gives the minority party a last opportunity to amend a bill a few moments before its final vote.
Pelosi has formed much of his frustration behind closed doors on experienced lawmakers, noting that some were sitting on coveted committees. "What is it?" She asked, according to the helpers.
Later, when a legislator raised the danger of persistently voting with party leaders on these motions, Pelosi responded that the party was ready to help the team players: "We have a huge MASH operation and Frankly, she should be there for those who have the courage to take the vote. "
In public and in private, Pelosi urged members to treat Republican motions as procedural fakes that should be systematically ignored. "Vote no, vote no," she told the press on Thursday, "because the fact is that voting for yes, is giving weight to the other party". But Hoyer and Clyburn feel it's unsustainable when Republicans are willing to use these votes as political cudgels against vulnerable democrats.
The Republicans, during their majority of the last eight years, have maintained a remarkable discipline during these procedural votes. The Democrats have not managed to pass a single from 2011 to 2018. But they have already lost two this year and in their previous majority from 2007 to 2010, they lost about one in five.
"The fact is that it did not affect our ability to enact substantive legislation that was very positive and had a positive effect on the American people," said Hoyer, recalling the latest Democratic majority and downplaying The importance of these votes. .
But others say that routine democratic defections threaten to have more serious consequences when the party considers more sensitive bills – and may have a Democratic Senate and President to adopt them. Some have already said that they feared more Republican misdeeds.
"People need to know that the proposed bill will come with binding amendments. If we want to move the bill forward, we will have to find a way to deal with it. Said Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Chair of the House Rules Committee.
The philosophical differences between the three leaders have frustrated some new students, who are already confused by the practice of voting for surprise Republican amendments. Members usually have only a few minutes' notice before voting on motions that in recent practice are designed to be as politically uncomfortable as possible for the majority party.
"We hear a lot of different things from many members of our management on their point of view on this issue, and they should come together and find a solution," said Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.).
Some Democrats said Thursday that the motion to re-commit should be entirely abandoned. "It's archaic, it's ridiculous and it just shows our stupidity to have it again," said representative Juan Vargas (D-Calif.).
However, other party leaders were more concerned about eroding one of the few tools available to the minority in an institution where the majority generally enjoyed absolute power. "What's happening comes around – you have to keep that in mind," McGovern said.
Hoyer offered his support to change the procedure surrounding motions to rehire, giving members more time to consider the minority amendment. But the Democratic leaders made no final decision as to the continuation of this issue and lawmakers left Washington on Thursday to settle for further talks on the matter.
Republican leaders, meanwhile, have warned of any change. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Told reporters Thursday that the changes "would be a nuclear option" and "leave a mark on this majority just two months away."
"We have never discussed, have we ever discussed the option or even retained the idea," said McCarthy about the former GOP majority. "Less than 60 days later, they want to silence a minority? That's wrong. "