How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others

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

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObjections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated Latest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' 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 RicePelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch Democrat offers measure to prevent lawmakers from sleeping in their offices Hillicon Valley: Pelosi blasts Facebook for not taking down doctored video | Democrats push election security after Mueller warning | Critics dismiss FCC report on broadband access | Uber to ban passengers with low ratings 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 TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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 VelaDCCC faces mass staff shakeup: 'It's the Monday Night Massacre' DCCC exec resigns amid furor over minority representation Hispanic Democratic lawmakers hit DCCC over lack of diversity in top ranks MORE (D-Texas), a Homeland Security subcommittee gavel and placed him on the Armed Services Committee. And Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment 2020 Democrats urge Israel to reverse decision banning Omar, Tlaib visit 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally 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-CortezJoseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts The latest victims of the far-left's environmental zealotry: Long Islanders Ocasio-Cortez brushes off Trump tweet claiming she is 'fuming' over Tlaib, Omar attention 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) John RyanThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Head of flight attendants group claims 'broad support' for 'Medicare for All' among union members 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally 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 ConyersEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' McConnell: Reparations aren't 'a good idea' This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive 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 BidenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown 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 CrowHouse Democrats request sit-down with McConnell to talk guns Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress Democratic veteran lawmakers call for return of assault weapons ban MORE (D-Colo.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress Democratic veteran lawmakers call for return of assault weapons ban 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 GaramendiHouse Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment Trump bashes Mueller for 'ineptitude,' slams 'sick' Democrats backing impeachment Pelosi denies she's 'trying to run out the clock' on impeachment 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.