How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others

How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit MORE sent rank-and-file Democrats an unmistakable message this week: Stick with the team and you will be rewarded, oppose the team and you could be punished.

The California Democrat this week took retribution against Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHouse lawmakers to launch probe into DHS excluding NY from Trusted Traveler Program New York lawmaker spotted helping mother duck and ducklings cross busy street Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen MORE (D-N.Y.), who opposed Pelosi’s campaign for Speaker this month, by denying Rice a slot on the Judiciary Committee that she had lobbied for.

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Meanwhile, Pelosi began rewarding a handful of onetime critics who cut deals and eventually came around and backed her bid to reclaim the Speaker’s gavel. Her carrot-and-stick approach this week could serve as a guide for how Pelosi plans to keep her 235-member caucus in line as her party takes on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE and the Republicans.

Pelosi handpicked Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) to serve on the powerful Intelligence Committee, which is diving back into the Russia collusion investigation. He had been critical of Pelosi but endorsed her shortly after Democrats won the House majority in November.

The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a group led by Pelosi and packed with her loyalists, also handed another former critic, Rep. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Texas Democrat proposes COVID-19 victims' compensation fund MORE (D-Texas), a Homeland Security subcommittee gavel and placed him on the Armed Services Committee. And Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonPortland: The Pentagon should step up or pipe down House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-Mass.) retained his seat on the coveted House Armed Services Committee, where he is expected to chair a special panel, a Democratic source said.

Another notable decision by the Steering panel: It tapped freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezMichelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Ethics Committee orders Tlaib to refund campaign ,800 for salary payments MORE (D-N.Y.), who protested in Pelosi’s office on her first day on Capitol Hill, to serve on the influential Financial Services Committee. It’s a plum assignment for a freshman from New York given that the panel oversees banks and Wall Street.  

The Steering group is also expected to name Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: HHS Secretary Azar says US plans to have tens of millions of vaccine doses this fall; Kremlin allegedly trying to hack vaccine research Democrats see victory in Trump culture war House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (D-Ohio) the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch after his Appropriations Committee colleagues recommended him for the job Wednesday.

That is significant given that Ryan challenged Pelosi for the Speakership in 2016 and was one of the ringleaders of the band of Democratic insurgents — dubbed the “Never Nancys” — that tried to block her return to the Speaker’s office. But Ryan endorsed Pelosi after he and other critics cut a deal imposing term limits on Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders.

The fact that Ryan never made his opposition to the 78-year-old Pelosi personal but more about needing new blood in leadership may have paved the way for Ryan to be appointed an Appropriations “cardinal,” the nickname given that panel’s subcommittee chairs.

“I’m very happy,” Ryan said of his new subcommittee gavel. “Everything was on the up and up. We kept it fair. I expressed to her exactly what my feelings were; nothing was personal. It was all business. We should be allowed to have internal conversations in the family without fear of reprisal.”

But others who took on Pelosi did face retribution.

Rice, another ringleader of the anti-Pelosi effort who voted against her on the House floor on Jan. 3, had enlisted fellow members of the New York delegation to lobby the Pelosi-aligned Steering panel to award her a spot on the powerful Judiciary Committee. But in a Steering meeting Tuesday night, Pelosi pushed for less senior Democratic members to win slots on Judiciary and Rice was shut out from the panel, developments first reported by Politico.

“Elections have consequences,” said a Democratic aide familiar with the Rice situation.

A Rice spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. But the former Nassau County district attorney has been perhaps the most vocal critic of Pelosi in the Democratic Caucus, and some have viewed her criticism as more personal than other Pelosi opponents.

In 2017, Rice said Pelosi, the first and only female Speaker, “set women back” decades because of her handling of sexual assault allegations against former House Judiciary Committee Chairman John ConyersJohn James ConyersBiden's immigration plan has serious problems Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary Tlaib holds lead in early vote count against primary challenger MORE Jr. (D-Mich.).

Rice was one of 15 Democrats who did not vote for Pelosi on the House floor this month. Freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), who voted for former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore HuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Jill Biden says she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady MORE, had requested a spot on the Armed Services panel but was denied the posting.

But that decision didn’t appear to be about a Pelosi vendetta. Other freshmen who voted against Pelosi — including Reps. Jason CrowJason CrowTrump-Afghan deal passes key deadline, but peace elusive Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats Congressional inconsistency continues regarding war powers MORE (D-Colo.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillOcasio-Cortez, Democrats blast GOP on House floor for 'culture' of sexism The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Facebook — Fauci touts COVID-19 vaccine news Cash-strapped cities hammered by COVID-19 beg for federal help MORE (D-N.J.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) — all landed coveted spots on Armed Services, suggesting Pelosi may be understanding of swing-district Democrats who need to distance themselves from the Speaker for political reasons.

Brindisi is hoping to win other assignments on the Agriculture and Veterans Affairs committees, a source close to him said.

One Pelosi ally, Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiWuhan is the final straw: The world needs to divest from China GOP seizes on 'defund the police' to galvanize base Peace Corps faces uncertain future with no volunteers in field MORE (D-Calif.), said he and many other colleagues are hardly surprised Rice didn’t get the assignment she wanted.

“We are a team. If we’re going to succeed in dealing with shutdowns, with a big full legislative agenda, we can only do that as a team,” Garamendi told The Hill. “If 99 of us are going in one direction and the other person is going in the other direction, we’ve lost 1/100th of our potential.

“So we’ve got to be a team, and if you don’t want to be on the team, then you can sit on the bench,” he said. “In the NFL, if you’ve got a quarterback who doesn’t want to work with the team, they’re not getting on the field.”

Juliegrace Brufke and Mike Lillis contributed.