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Pelosi scolds Democrats for public barbs

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop More hands needed on the nuclear football Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus 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 PocanWatch Out: Progressives are eyeing the last slice of the budget Former Progressive Caucus co-chair won't challenge Johnson in 2022 Congressional Progressive Caucus announces new leadership team 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-CortezTexas man charged for alleged role in Capitol riots, online death threats to Ocasio-Cortez DC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Tensions running high after gun incident near House floor MORE (N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Overnight Energy: EPA rule exempts many polluting industries from future air regulations | Ex-Michigan governor to be charged over Flint water crisis: report | Officials ousted from White House after papers casting doubt on climate science Ex-Michigan governor to be charged over Flint water crisis: report MORE (Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocrats poised to impeach Trump again Pence opposes removing Trump under 25th Amendment: reports Pelosi vows to impeach Trump again — if Pence doesn't remove him first MORE (Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyBelfast's Troubles echo in today's Washington Federal government carries out 13th and final execution under Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history 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 HoyerBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing 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 McConnellBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE. Our fire should be directed at him,” said progressive Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis House impeaches Trump for second time — with some GOP support Stacey Abrams gets kudos for work in Georgia runoff election MORE (D-Calif.). 

Leaving the meeting, Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthSenate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds Dem lawmaker says GOP Rep. Boebert gave 'large' group tour days ahead of Capitol attack 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 JeffriesUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Lawmakers mount pressure on Trump to leave office Sunday shows - Capitol siege, Trump future dominate MORE (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, tried to downplay the divisions.

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