Maxine Waters is done with 'nice guy politics'

From the perspective of some House Democrats, Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBank watchdogs approve rule to loosen ban on risky Wall Street trades F-bombs away: Why lawmakers are cursing now more than ever Banks give Congress, New York AG documents related to Russians who may have dealt with Trump: report MORE (D-Calif.) has the right message. She’s just not always the best messenger.

The Los Angeles lawmaker’s early calls for President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE’s impeachment and viral showdowns with administration officials have endeared Waters to the party’s young, liberal base. And those stances have also garnered the respect of many House Democrats, who admire how Waters, 79, sticks to her political convictions.

"She is up-to-date, she is smart, she is authentic and she is not scared to express herself,” Rep. Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MooreHouse Democrat offers bill to let students with pot conviction retain federal aid House approves bill raising minimum wage to per hour Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-Wis.) told The Hill, adding that her constituents in Milwaukee often ask her if she knows Waters. "She is transformative in terms of appealing to different generations of people.”

Yet her most recent remarks — encouraging public confrontation with Cabinet members — rankled some of those colleagues and raised concerns about how Waters would handle increased authority if Democrats regain control of the House in November.

House and Senate minority leaders Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCutting tariffs is better than cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy Pelosi speaks with Israeli president after Trump controversy In debate over internet speech law, pay attention to whose voices are ignored MORE (D-Calif.) and Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) condemned her comments, while other Democrats distanced themselves from her.

Waters is aware that she sometimes pushes the envelope, according to a former aide who said the congresswoman thinks Democrats as a whole have engaged in "nice guy politics" for too long. 

“She’s definitely pushing people into a place of discomfort,” said the former aide, adding that Waters is “slowly but surely getting the Democrats to play the game the way Trump plays it.”

The former staffer said that Trump’s 2016 mimicking of Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter who has a physical disability, “ignited her fire.”

“That was the moment that really spurred her to speak out against him,” the former staffer said. “It was a moment that I think snapped her into accepting this is now our reality and accepting her role as an emerging soldier against this administration.”

That kind of approach has led to concern among some Democrats, including those on the House Financial Services Committee, where Waters is poised to wield the gavel next year if Democrats are in the majority.

One Democrat on the panel told The Hill that a few members of the committee are worried that Waters’s recent remarks about confronting administration officials are a sign that she’s itching to lead a crusade against Trump.

“We've got a division, because some people are very concerned that she's going to be pushing an ideological agenda,” said the lawmaker. "We can have disagreements on the substance, and that's fine. I just want to make sure it doesn't become like a show."

Waters, who declined an interview for this article, said in a statement that she’s eager to “work with Members [from] both sides of the aisle on sensible solutions to benefit hardworking Americans and strengthen our nation’s economy."

"She works really hard, she's opinionated on some things,” said Rep. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterAppetite for Democratic term limits fizzling out Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp On The Money: Liberal Dems warn moderates against changes to minimum wage bill | House grapples with Facebook's Libra | Congress, White House inch closer to budget deal | Blue states sue over tax law regulations MORE (D-Colo.), who serves with Waters on the Financial Services panel. "She also takes some very hard stands, and you know the Republicans don't like it and they try to push back. But she's every bit as tough or tougher than they are."

Though Democrats generally hold Waters in high regard, her willingness to explore the boundaries of opposition to Trump has caused unease among some colleagues.

Waters was one of the first members of Congress to call for Trump’s impeachment, and she has voted twice in favor of resolutions that would begin the process. Democratic leaders have tried to quash talk of impeaching Trump, a move they consider premature and a distraction from their campaign message aimed at regaining control of the House in the midterm elections this fall.

But her supporters have spoken out in her defense following the onslaught of criticism stemming from her most recent remarks, insisting that they were misconstrued by critics and came nowhere close to the violence that Trump advocated for on the campaign trail.

“What Maxine and her generation did was make this country a better country by protesting, by sitting at lunch counters, by marching,” said Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondHouse Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations MORE (D-La.), chairman of Congressional Black Caucus, which Waters led from 1997 to 1999. “She reached back into that era of saying, 'When you see them, protest.'”

Waters, who has served in the House since 1991, said her comments were a call for political pressure, not violence, and that any conversation about civility should start with Trump’s conduct.

Despite her abrasive public manner, some Democrats say she takes a different approach when it comes to getting things done at the committee level.

“There are disagreements that come up from time to time, and we try to hammer them out the best we can,” Perlmutter said.

Waters has worked with her Republican colleagues on important compromise legislation, including a bipartisan flood insurance overhaul package. She has also allowed Democratic members on the panel, some who have deep Wall Street ties, to pursue bipartisan measures that she opposes.

Most of Waters’s Democratic colleagues speak about her with reverence and respect when asked about her work in Congress, calling her a studious, fearless leader.

Those close to her say that she’s used to public and private pushback from her colleagues and won’t be deterred by the controversy surrounding her anti-Trump remarks.

"She is very, very much a minority in the House of Representatives, and that hasn't dissuaded her from speaking her truth in a room surrounded by people who do not look like her,” her former aide said. "It's easy to be quieted because you're scared, and she's not scared.”