Dem lawmakers seek distance from Waters call for confrontation

Democrats on Capitol Hill are mad as hell about President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, but they’re distancing themselves from Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDems press Barr to make Mueller report public Private insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers closing in on border deal | Dems build case for Trump tax returns | Trump, Xi won't meet before trade deadline | Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony MORE (D-Calif.) and her calls for public confrontations with administration officials.

While some liberal commentators and progressive activists have voiced support for Waters, few if any Democrats in Congress back her tactics.

“The worst. What has happened to our country,” one fellow House Democrat said of Waters’s call to action.

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“Each member has got to decide for his or herself. I wouldn’t do it,” said Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldWinners and losers in the border security deal Pelosi runs tight ship as more stormy waters await Lean job market for Dems on K Street MORE (D-N.C.), who like Waters is a past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

“That’s a tactic she has chosen. ... I have my own tactics,” added another CBC member, Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonDem behind impeachment push to boycott State of the Union Democrats seek to take on Trump at State of the Union Booker reaches out to lawmakers to seek support for 2020 bid MORE (D-Fla.). “I speak on the floor. I speak at events as far as what our secretaries are doing to roll back regulations. Different people have different ways of expressing themselves, their displeasure and their disgust.”

The Waters flap shows the challenges for House Democrats this year as they try to navigate a tricky political landscape dominated by Trump. Liberals like Waters want to show solidarity with fervent Trump foes across the country who are infuriated by his administration and policies, and are struggling to find ways to voice their opposition.

But some in the party warn that these types of aggressive tactics — from impeachment to intimidation — could backfire on Democrats and turn off voters this fall as they seek to flip a net of 23 GOP-held seats and win back control of the House.

“I don’t think it’s productive. It’s probably not helpful” to Democrats, said Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersFox News legal analyst Bob Massi dies after cancer battle Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Dem lawmaker warns of 'undetected' items entering US at border MORE (D-Calif.), who faces a competitive race this fall.

“One thing people in my district and other swing districts want is for us to stop bickering, regardless of whose fault it is or where it started. I just think people are tired of it,” Peters continued. “To the extent Democrats can stay away from that, I think we are better served.”

The Waters remarks sprang from Democratic outrage to the family separations caused by the president’s zero tolerance border policy, which led to more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents after illegal border crossings.

But the media spotlight quickly shifted over the weekend after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was booted from a restaurant in Virginia and Waters told supporters at a Los Angeles rally to confront Trump Cabinet officials everywhere they go.

“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Waters said at the rally.

Waters, 79, a Los Angeles liberal who has twice voted to impeach Trump, defended herself during a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Tuesday.

According to sources in the room, she stood up and told her colleagues that her opinions were protected under the First Amendment and made clear that she does not believe in violence of any kind, despite what the president and other Republicans had alleged.

Later, she reiterated that same message to reporters while saying she wanted to steer the focus back to the separated families.

“You know what I've decided? I decided I'm just talking about the children. I want the children released, I want a plan. I want a plan for what this administration is going to do to connect these children,” a frustrated Waters told a gaggle of reporters just off the House floor. “I'm not following all this stuff, because I know what I said. If everybody reads what I said, they know there's no violence.”

Asked if her comments could be a drag on Democrats in the midterms, she replied: “I don't think. I don't know. You ask them.”

Trump and other Republicans have pounced on the lawmaker’s remarks.

The president tweeted Monday that Waters, whom he described as “an extraordinarily low IQ person” had joined with Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Can progressives govern? Dems plan hearing on emergency declaration's impact on military MORE (D-Calif.) in becoming the “Face of the Democratic Party.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE (R-Wis.) called on Waters to apologize, declaring at his news conference Tuesday “there is no place for this.”

Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Texas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE (R-La.), who barely survived a shooting at a congressional baseball practice a year ago, decried incivility permeating politics today — while making no mention of Trump’s own calls for violence against protesters at his 2016 campaign rallies.

“Nobody should be inciting harassment or violence of any sort just because we disagree with each other on issues,” Scalise said.

To win back the House in November, senior Democrats suggested they need to focus on driving turnout, not intimidating Trump allies.

“Continuing to mobilize, holding town halls, knocking on doors, encouraging people to vote, that’s what we need to be doing,” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign operation, told The Hill. “We can continue to hold this administration accountable in everything that we do every day, but do it in a way where we’re not stooping down to the level of what Republicans are doing.”

A day after Democratic congressional leaders had sought to stomp out the controversy, other Democrats said their party has to keep its eye on the prize.

“I understand the frustration and the anger she was expressing, and I share a lot of that. I wouldn’t have done it, but I don’t criticize her for doing it,” Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthTrump: Top Dems aren't allowing negotiators to make border security deal Dem rep: 'If Mick Mulvaney were president, we could’ve solved' border talks at Camp David retreat Bipartisan House group heads to Camp David retreat MORE (D-Ky.), who has served with Waters for the past decade, told The Hill.

“What will change something is the election, changing the control of the Congress. Yelling at somebody is not going to change anything, but elections will,” he said.

Sylvan Lane contributed.