Pelosi says she's done talking about fight with 'Squad'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she was done talking in public about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants Harris, Ocasio-Cortez push climate equity bill with Green New Deal roots Young minority voters show overwhelming support for Biden: poll MORE and the tensions roiling her caucus after the New York lawmaker criticized her in an interview with The Washington Post.

Pelosi at her weekly press conference said she'd said what she wanted to say at a closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday and refused to engage much with reporters asking her about the fight that has dominated the week in Congress.

And she shrugged off any offense that Ocasio-Cortez or the three other members of the so-called progressive freshman "Squad" might have taken from her remarks.

ADVERTISEMENT

"They took offense because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the members' offices that referenced our Blue Dogs and our New Dems essentially as segregationists," Pelosi said. "Our members took offense at that. I addressed that. How they're interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them."

"But I'm not going to be discussing it any further," Pelosi said. "I said what I'm going to say."

The tweet Pelosi referred to was sent last month by Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, and has since been deleted.

It described the centrist Democrats as "new Southern Democrats" that "certainly seem hell bent to do black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s."

Pelosi on Thursday said the tweet offended a number of Democrats, and that she had to respond to it.

Tensions between Pelosi and liberals in the caucus have been swirling for days. They have centered on Ocasio-Cortez and three of her closest allies, Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMinneapolis Star Tribune endorses Ilhan Omar's primary challenger Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary The Memo: Biden faces balancing act MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHuffPost reporter discusses progressives' successful showing on Tuesday Minneapolis Star Tribune endorses Ilhan Omar's primary challenger The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyMinneapolis Star Tribune endorses Ilhan Omar's primary challenger Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE (D-Mass.). All four are freshmen and women of color known as the "Squad."

After Pelosi scolded the caucus at Wednesday morning's closed-door meeting, saying they should keep criticisms of one another out of public, Ocasio-Cortez in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday night accused Pelosi of singling out women of color for criticism.

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the interview. “But the persistent singling out ... it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful ... the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

Members were buzzing about those remarks throughout the day on Thursday, and Pelosi was asked about them twice at her weekly press conference. 

She said her remarks the day before, criticizing the tweet, had been well-received from the full Democratic caucus, and that she saw the group's diversity as a strength. 
 
"What I said in the caucus yesterday got an overwhelming response from my members because they know what the facts are and what we're responding to. We respect the value of every member of our caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power," Pelosi said.
 
In her comments to the Post, Ocasio-Cortez also said Pelosi's most recent shots at the "Squad" in an interview with The New York Times felt like part of a pattern.

Most recently, Pelosi had told the New York Times in a column last week that the four freshmen had limited influence given that they were the only ones to vote against House Democrats' bill last month to provide resources for agencies handling the flow of migrants at the border. 

“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalSanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Matt Stoller: Big tech House grilling the most important hearing on corporate power since the 1930s Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence MORE (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressed sympathy toward Ocasio-Cortez, saying that she has also felt targeted as as a woman of color in public life.

"I can tell you that it happens all the time. It isn't usually from just one person. The system is geared in that way," Jayapal said. 

Jayapal said that she and her fellow Progressive Caucus co-chair, Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanProgressive Caucus co-chair: Reported oversight change in intelligence office 'seems a bit...fascist' House approves amendments to rein in federal forces in cities House Democrats backtrack, will pull Homeland Security bill MORE (D-Wis.), are requesting a meeting with Pelosi to try to smooth things over with progressives. The meeting has not yet been scheduled.

"I think it's just important that we clear this," Jayapal said. "Mark Pocan and I have asked for a meeting with her not just to talk about this, but to talk about the general relationship of the progressives to the Democratic caucus."

But other progressive Democrats sided with Pelosi.

"I think it's really not accurate to call them the 'squad,'" said Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyDemocrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Democrats introduce bill to repeal funding ban on abortions abroad Trade negotiations mustn't short-circuit domestic debate MORE (D-Ill.). "It's not like they, you know, they see themselves as a squad and get together and say, 'Now, what's our next move?'"

Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday told CNN's Manu Raju that she did not think Pelosi had any racial animus.

A senior Democratic aide associated with the Blue Dog Coalition pushed back against Ocasio-Cortez's comments about Pelosi on Thursday.

"Let's not forget the fact that Rep. Ocasio Cortez's chief of staff called a group of members racist. This is a group of members led by an immigrant woman of color, and this group includes several other people of color, including two black men who actually experienced the segregated South," the aide said.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (D-Md.), who like Pelosi called for unity during Wednesday's caucus meeting, similarly declined to respond to Ocasio-Cortez's comments to the Post.

"I don't really want to get into this back and forth. I would hope it would stop," Hoyer told reporters on Thursday.

Updated: 6:05 p.m.