How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others

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

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely 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 RiceMcCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others The 15 Democrats who voted against Pelosi 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview 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 VelaHow Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others New Dem caucus chairman: Some wall is good, but not new wall Border lawmakers press Trump to beef up existing security MORE (D-Texas), a Homeland Security subcommittee gavel and placed him on the Armed Services Committee. And Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonDem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - All eyes on Trump after lawmakers reach spending deal Overnight Defense: Acting Pentagon chief visits Afghanistan | US, Taliban peace talks intensify | Trump tweets in Persian to send message to Iran | Defense world pays tribute to Walter Jones 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-CortezNew York hates Amazon Tech looks for lessons from Amazon HQ2 fight 'Tax-the-rich' policies are all the rage in the US 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 RyanTim Ryan ‘seriously considering’ 2020 bid Baseball legend Frank Robinson, first black manager in MLB, dies at 83 House Democrat warns ethics committee about Steve King promoting white nationalism website 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 ConyersDemocrats seek cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill Virginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message Women's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC 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 BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Biden: 'The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world' DNC chair defends debate schedule after Biden says election process starts 'too early' 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 CrowHow gun control activists learned from the NRA Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Gardner, Portman endorse Trump for 2020 MORE (D-Colo.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillChristie: New Jersey would be 'incredibly lucky’ if wife ran for Congress Why standing up for children is a policy priority How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others 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 GaramendiOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump blasts intel officials as 'passive and naive' | Lawmakers reintroduce Yemen war powers resolution | Dems push Pentagon to redo climate report | VA proposes new rules for private health care House Armed Services Dems demand Pentagon offer more complete climate change report Overnight Defense: Trump agrees to reopen government without wall funding | Senate approves stopgap spending | Dems ask Armed Services chair to block military funding for wall | Coast Guard official assures workers they will receive back pay 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.