How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others

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

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTop Federal Reserve official: Further coronavirus stimulus bill may not be needed Schumer: Fired inspector general will be remembered as a 'hero' Clyburn says stimulus spending oversight committee will be 'forward looking' 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 RiceHere are the lawmakers who have self-quarantined as a precaution Top Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities Buttigieg plans NY fundraiser with Michael J. Fox 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 TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' 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 VelaTexas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging Univision rolls out new ads urging Hispanics to take part in census MORE (D-Texas), a Homeland Security subcommittee gavel and placed him on the Armed Services Committee. And Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonAsian American lawmaker warns of fear of racism over coronavirus stigma Pressley experiencing flu-like symptoms, being tested for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill 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-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response 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) RyanDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Lawmakers call for universal basic income amid coronavirus crisis Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA 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 ConyersFormer impeachment managers clash over surveillance bill VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems release first transcripts from impeachment probe witnesses 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 BidenCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Biden to host 'virtual fireside chat' with donors Esper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander 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 CrowPentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Here are the lawmakers who have self-quarantined as a precaution Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (D-Colo.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillBiden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Elbow bumps, Spock salutes: How Congress is dealing with coronavirus Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — Trump, Congress struggle for economic deal amid coronavirus threat | Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol | Coronavirus emerges as 2020 flashpoint 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: Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with outbreak | Trump to expand use of defense law to build ventilators | Hospital ships receiving few patients Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with coronavirus outbreak Biden rise calms Democratic jitters 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.