Pelosi scolds Democrats for public barbs

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence says it's 'vital' for Congress to pass US-Mexico-Canada trade deal The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Obama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' MORE (D-Calif.) and Democratic leaders on Wednesday scolded Democrats for publicly taking shots at each other and pleaded for unity as they head into key debates in the coming weeks.

“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK,” Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday, according to a source in the room.

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Pelosi warned that Democratic infighting plays into GOP hands and defended the moderates in the caucus.

“I’m here to help the children when it’s easy and when it’s hard. Some of you are here to make a beautiful pâté but we’re making sausage most of the time,” Pelosi said. “Without that unity, we are playing completely into the hands of the other people.”

Pelosi also forcefully defended the centrists in the caucus and said it’s better for Democrats to criticize her than attack the most vulnerable members publicly.

“I hope there will be some level of respect and sensitivity for our — each individual experience that we bring to this Caucus,” Pelosi said. “You make me the target, but don’t make our Blue Dogs and our New Dems the target in all of this because we have important fish to fry,” Pelosi said.

"It was a very stern and forceful speech," said a senior Democratic aide in the room. 

Pelosi also told the assembled Democrats that if they, or a member of their staff, had thoughts to attack another lawmaker on social media they should "think twice," according to the senior aide.

"Actually, don't think twice; think once," Pelosi said.

"That was a very poignant moment in there," the senior aide said. 

Before the July 4 recess, Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry MORE (D-Wis.), a co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, tweeted that the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus had become the “Child Abuse Caucus” for their support of the Senate’s version of the border-aid package. Progressives had been pushing for more stringent standards for migrant children in government custody.

The first test of House Democratic unity will be effort to pass an annual defense policy bill this week. 

Wednesday’s meeting was the first caucuswide huddle since tensions spilled over before the July 4 recess between liberals and centrists over legislation to provide funding to agencies handling the flow of migrants at the southern border.

Many liberals were furious that Pelosi had accepted a Senate-passed version of the border bill, rather than fighting harder for the House package, which included more protections for the migrants being held in border detention centers. 

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Pelosi further irritated four prominent liberal freshmen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez endorses challenger to Democrat Lipinski in Illinois race The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? The Memo: Times correction gives GOP lifeline in latest Kavanaugh controversy MORE (N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOmar says she hopes Netanyahu not reelected Bill Maher, Michael Moore spar over Democrats' strategy for 2020 Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight MORE (Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTrump seeks to expand electoral map with New Mexico rally Omar says she hopes Netanyahu not reelected Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate MORE (Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyTrump praises Kavanaugh as a 'great, brilliant man,' blasts NYT over 'smear' report at rally Pressley to introduce resolution to open impeachment inquiry against Kavanaugh Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley dance to Lizzo's 'Truth Hurts' in video MORE (Mass.), known as the “squad” — when she downplayed their impact in a New York Times column over the weekend by noting they were the only ones to vote against a House-passed version of a spending bill for agencies at the border.

Much of Wednesday’s conference meeting focused on leadership’s push for Democrats to get behind the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Progressives believe the $733 billion price tag is too high and are still bitter over being rolled by the Senate in the border bill talks two weeks ago.

In addition to Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate New storm rises over Kavanaugh MORE (D-Md.) urged Democrats to stay unified.

“He said, come to me, criticize me in person. But let's be unified when we're dealing with McConnell. The real obstacle, which I agree with, is Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US New York Times authors blame Kavanaugh correction on editing error: 'There was zero intent to mislead' The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? MORE. Our fire should be directed at him,” said progressive Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Khanna: I 'didn't appreciate' Castro's attack on Biden Overwhelming majority of voters want lawmakers to work with other party MORE (D-Calif.). 

Leaving the meeting, Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthMcConnell accepts Democratic rep's challenge to 5 debates House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment White House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts MORE (D-Ky.), a de facto member of leadership as the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Hoyer emphasized that intraparty squabbles should be kept out of the public square. 

“Steny gave a very impassioned unity talk just a few minutes ago, talking about how important everybody is to getting our agenda done [and] that if we have problems with each other we ought to address each other and not go outside,” Yarmuth said. 

Asked if Hoyer’s message was directed at Pelosi, Yarmuth chuckled. 

“It was directed at everyone,” he said. “They know who they are.”

Huddling with reporters after the caucus meeting, Hoyer insisted the party will be unified heading into the NDAA vote this week. But he also acknowledged the publicly aired grievances between some members — and urged them to stop.

“There were some strong feelings; people are very, very upset with the humanitarian abuses that are occurring at the border that every American ought to be ashamed of. So there were some strong feelings, and they were manifested,” Hoyer said. “But there was no doubt that bill was going to pass.” 

Omar defended herself and her allies and said lawmakers should vote as they see fit.

“Our job isn't to make sure that we have our colleagues voting a certain way,” Omar told reporters. “I hope that leadership understands their role and understands what our role is.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesWords matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Democrats face key moment on impeachment drive Top House Democrat walks back remarks contradicting Judiciary on impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, tried to downplay the divisions.

“It’s all puppies and rainbows,” Jeffries quipped.