New cracks emerge in Dem unity

House Democrats are showing more cracks in their united front just two months into the new Congress.

Leaders are scrambling to contain high-profile rifts between liberals and centrists on everything from the Green New Deal and “Medicare for all,” to the handling of controversial remarks by Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar controversy has not shifted Jews away from Dem Party, left-leaning Jewish advocate says Jewish voters share Dem values, says left-leaning Jewish advocate Omar slams U.S. war in Iraq on anniversary of invasion MORE (D-Minn.) and the impeachment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE.

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Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiRisk-averse Republicans are failing the republic The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Dems put manufacturing sector in 2020 spotlight Trump, Saturday Night Live and why autocrats can't take a joke MORE (D-Calif.) has built a hard-earned reputation for coalescing her caucus around shared Democratic values and keeping her troops in line on even the most controversial legislative proposals.

And in the early weeks of the 116th Congress, Democrats held together through a long, high-stakes shutdown debate, forcing Trump to abandon his demands for border wall funding. 

But Pelosi may be dealing with her toughest challenge yet in governing a caucus that is tilting to the left and includes many new members impatient to take action against Trump — but that also has dozens of moderate members who just won victories in Trump districts.

Some members of Pelosi’s team brush off the recent flare-ups as a natural part of governing a majority — particularly the most diverse House caucus in history.

“I just think that we lose too many battles up here arguing over the stuff that’s kind of silly to argue over,” Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the Democratic whip and a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said during an interview in his office in the Capitol. 

“Everybody talks about how diverse this Congress is. This Congress is not diverse; the Democratic Caucus is diverse,” he continued, noting that the GOP conference has only one black member. “We’ve got 53 black people in our caucus. How many Muslims do you think are in their caucus? 

“So, it’s going to be different for us.”

Yet the internal tensions — coming after a post-midterm leadership fight over Pelosi’s future atop the party — aren’t about frivolous matters, at least for the most part.

Many are about policy, and they have exposed divisions along lines that are regional, ideological, religious and generational.

Worse, the rifts are shifting the spotlight from Democratic priorities.

A sweeping package of government reforms and voting rights protections, for instance, is poised to pass the House on Friday. But it’s been all but ignored amid the media’s focus on the Democrats’ infighting. 

The latest headache for Democratic leaders surrounds Omar, one of two history-making Muslim women to arrive this year on Capitol Hill. She stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy last week with comments at a public event which detractors say suggested American supporters of Israel have an “allegiance to a foreign country.”

The remarks were quickly condemned by Israel’s most vocal allies, including several senior House Democrats — Reps. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave Bottom Line Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending MORE (N.Y.) and Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP House passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin The Hill's Morning Report - Trump budget reignites border security fight MORE (N.Y.), both of whom are Jewish — who lashed out at Omar publicly and quickly pressed Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to draft a legislative response condemning anti-Semitism.

The critics charged that Omar was invoking the long-held anti-Semitic trope that anyone supportive of Israel is compromised by “dual loyalty.”

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Yet Omar’s liberal allies have since rallied around the Minnesota freshman. They say she’s been singled out unfairly because she’s a minority woman, and they’ve pressed Democratic leaders to broaden the sweep of their resolution to condemn all forms of hate speech, including when it’s directed at Muslims. 

“I think we need to talk about white supremacy in our country very much more directly than that resolution did in the first place,” Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDems concerned impeachment will make Trump 'appear like a victim,' says pollster Officials dismiss criticism that Trump rhetoric to blame for New Zealand attack Tlaib: Trump needs to send a 'very loud and clear' signal against domestic terrorism, white supremacy MORE (D-Mich.), the other Muslim woman to join Congress this year, said Wednesday. “And I think we’ve been heard.”

Trump and the Republicans have been happy to stoke the Democratic fires.

“It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!”

Clyburn came to Omar’s defense Wednesday, lamenting that many of the media reports surrounding the recent controversy have omitted mentioning that Omar, who was born in Somalia, had to flee the country to escape violence and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to the United States.

Her experience, Clyburn argued, is much more empirical — and powerful — than that of people who are generations removed from the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps during World War II and the other violent episodes that have marked history. 

“I’m serious about that. There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her,” Clyburn said. “I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain.”

Clyburn said that long talks with former Rep. Norman Mineta (D-Calif.), a Japanese-American who was interned during WWII, gave him a special appreciation for Omar’s experiences. And he rejected the idea that the Democrats’ resolution will single her out for condemnation. 

“She won’t be targeted. We’re going to target those people who had her picture on the Twin Towers,” Clyburn said. “This resolution is going to be inclusive; it’s going to be expansive; and I might just try to add something to deal with that billboard that’s up in Pennsylvania this morning calling John LewisJohn Lewis Civil rights icon John Lewis after New Zealand mosque attacks: 'We cannot sow seeds of hatred' Why are Trump and Congress avoiding comprehensive immigration reform? Together, we carry on the age-old struggle for justice for all MORE and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus racists.”

The Omar controversy is not the only episode where Democratic leaders have sought to strike a balance between the liberal and moderate wings of the party. On Medicare for All, for instance, Pelosi has promised committee hearings even as she’s fought to prioritize improvements to the Affordable Care Act instead. Approaching climate change, she’s hailed the enthusiasm of the Green New Deal supporters without endorsing the proposal.

But it’s over impeachment that the clearest divisions may be emerging. Democratic leaders are taking a cautious approach, but a growing number of liberals are getting impatient. And Tlaib announced Wednesday that she’ll soon introduce legislation to oust the president. 

“When I speak to leadership, they constantly remind me that I have to represent my district,” Tlaib said. “This is an emergency for many of us.”