Pelosi scolds Democrats for public barbs

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response GOP rep leaves committee assignments after indictment Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending 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 PocanFox's Bill Hemmer to Democrat: 'Do you consider yourself a capitalist or a socialist?' Progressives say go big and make life hard for GOP Left doubles down on aggressive strategy 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-CortezThe Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Biden, Democrats risk everything unless they follow the Clinton pivot (they won't) Harris takes central role in climate fight MORE (N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibIlhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' Who's the boss? Pelosi's legacy sealed after kowtowing to 'the Squad' Democratic civil war hits new heights MORE (Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Is Wall Street serving its own interests by supporting China's? Democrats step up pressure on Biden on student loan forgiveness MORE (Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyProgressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — FDA panel advises Moderna booster shot for high-risk people Ilhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' 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 HoyerPowerful Democrats push back on one-year extension of child tax credit The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt 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 McConnellGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill A politicized Supreme Court? That was the point The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings MORE. Our fire should be directed at him,” said progressive Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Dems vow to keep emissions cuts Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending MORE (D-Calif.). 

Leaving the meeting, Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDemocrats at odds with Manchin over child tax credit provision The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms 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 JeffriesSinema in Arizona as Democrats try to get spending-infrastructure deal LIVE COVERAGE: Biden tries to unify divided House Democrats search for sweet spot below .5 trillion price tag MORE (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, tried to downplay the divisions.

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