Pelosi scolds Democrats for public barbs

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump congratulates Steve King challenger on GOP primary win The Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress 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 PocanHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Pelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat 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-CortezNew York City issues Monday night curfew amid protests Engel primary challenger drops out, endorses fellow challenger Trump says he will designate antifa a terrorist organization MORE (N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibPelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAmash readying legislation allowing victims to sue officers Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd Black Caucus member unveils bill to create commission addressing legacy of slavery MORE (Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyDemocrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd Black Caucus member unveils bill to create commission addressing legacy of slavery House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality 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 HoyerCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Hoyer wins Maryland House primary Hoyer: Gassing of protestors 'worthy' of Trump censure 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 McConnellTrump congratulates Steve King challenger on GOP primary win The Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen Republicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks MORE. Our fire should be directed at him,” said progressive Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Johns Hopkins's Jennifer Nuzzo says America needs public health crisis insurance to pay for COVID-19 victims; Protests, pandemic continue to ravage America The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Delaney says Trump is spewing venom when he should be leading; Protests roil the nation as fears of new virus outbreaks grow MORE (D-Calif.). 

Leaving the meeting, Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthRep slams 'vulgar images' and 'racist words' that disrupted virtual youth anti-violence event Unemployment to remain above 9 percent into 2021: CBO Pelosi pushes to unite party on coronavirus bill despite grumbling from left 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 JeffriesCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd Harris, Jeffries question why Manafort, Cohen released while others remain in prison MORE (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, tried to downplay the divisions.

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