Congress

Pelosi downplays Democratic divides following meeting with Ocasio-Cortez

Speaker enters August recess with message of unity following weeks of tension

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is questioned by reporters after a meeting with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in the Capitol on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez huddled on Friday, giving Pelosi the chance to tout Democratic unity following weeks of tension between progressives and House leadership.

Pelosi said the meeting with Ocasio-Cortez went well and praised the New York freshman, calling her “a very gracious member of Congress.” She said the pair discussed issues facing their districts in California and New York, along with the challenges facing the nation on issues of immigration.

Ocasio-Cortez left the meeting in Pelosi’s office through a back exit, avoiding reporters and questions about her perception of the sit-down.

Pelosi attempted to dispel talk of divisions and personal feuds before heading into the weeks-long August recess on Friday. She pointed to the 219 Democratic votes cast in favor of a compromise budget caps and debt limit deal on Thursday as a sign that House Democrats, despite a range of viewpoints, are still united.

She downplayed the simmering divisions within her caucus, likening House Democrats to a family.

“A family, you have your differences. You are still family. Does your family agree on everything?” she asked reporters.

Pelosi recently dismissed the influence of Ocasio-Cortez and her freshman colleagues Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna S. Pressley, who are often referred to as “the squad.”

“They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got,” Pelosi told the New York Times earlier this month.

Progressives and moderate House Democrats have been at odds repeatedly in recent months, including over the border spending bill. Public spats on Twitter exposed the internal divides and heightened pressure on the speaker to act as a uniting force for the caucus.

Pelosi referenced other points in her career when the Democratic caucus was at odds, including the fight over how to handle the contras in Central America, NAFTA and the Iraq war.

“People were saying to me then, you are never going any place in this party unless you vote for this war,” she said, of her vote against the war in Iraq.

She said that by comparison to those fights, the current schisms pale in comparison.

“These, some personality issues and the rest, they're minor,” she said.

Democrats plan to tout their legislative achievements so far in this congress while they are back in their districts, including House-passed minimum wage legislation, a measure to lower prices on prescription drug prices and a government ethics overhaul.

“Everybody knows we need to keep our eye on the ball,” said Pelosi.

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