Black Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month
Ocasio-Cortez: I'm 'not ready' to be Speaker but Pelosi and Schumer need to go
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she is "not ready" to be Speaker but lamented that the Democratic Party desperately needs new leadership and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) need to go.
In an interview with The Intercept's podcast, the progressive hero and firebrand said that Democrats have failed to create a succession plan once Pelosi and her generation of longtime leaders - many of them now in their 80s - step aside. Pelosi has indicated that this upcoming two-year term will be her last as Speaker.
"I do think that we need new leadership in the Democratic Party ... the internal dynamics of the House has made it such that there's very little option for succession," said Ocasio-Cortez, who is 31. "It's easy for someone to say, 'Oh well, you know, why don't you run?' but the House is extraordinarily complex, and I'm not ready. It can't be me. I know that I couldn't do that job."
"Even conservative members of the party who think Nancy Pelosi is far too liberal for them don't necessarily have any viable alternatives, which is why whenever there's a challenge, it kind of collapses," she continued. "And that is, I think, the result of just many years of power being concentrated in leadership with lack of ... real grooming of a next generation of leadership."
Ocasio-Cortez's remarks were an indirect jab at House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, a fellow New York Democrat and a Congressional Black Caucus member whom many Democratic colleagues have pointed to as a natural heir to Pelosi once she leaves. Another possible successor is incoming Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).
Pelosi's caucus unanimously nominated her last month to serve another two years as Speaker after she ran unopposed. But it's not absolutely certain she can win the Speaker's gavel in a House floor vote on Jan. 3. Because House Democrats unexpectedly lost more than a dozen seats in the November election, their majority is now down to just single digits, meaning a handful of Democratic defections could deny Pelosi of another term leading the party.
Ocasio-Cortez, however, gave no indication that she will vote against Pelosi on the floor, even as other moderate Democrats have. Some progressives have also floated Ocasio-Cortez as a potential primary challenger to Schumer in 2022, though she's sidestepped questions about whether she's interested in running.
Many of her fans want Ocasio-Cortez, who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic primary this year, to run for president after she turns 35 year old. She would be eligible to run for the White House in 2024.
Asked directly if Pelosi and Schumer "need to go," Ocasio-Cortez replied: "I mean, I think so."
But she again cautioned that the party has no succession plan or serious candidates who could "fill that vacuum."
"The hesitancy that I have is that I want to make sure that if we're pointing people in a direction that we have a plan," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And my concern, and this I acknowledge as a failing as something that we need to sort out, is that there isn't a plan. How do we fill that vacuum?
"Because if you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse. And so, the actual sad state of affairs is that there are folks more conservative than even they are willing to ... fill that void."