House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admonished her caucus Wednesday, telling Democratic members not to talk to reporters or speak publicly about disunity in the party.
“In every family you have your moments — Right, do you not have your moments in your family? Do you all agree all the time on everything? Do you?” — the speaker said during the caucus meeting, according to a Democratic source in the room. “We’re a family and we have our moments and we’re like a kaleidoscope… But we’re all a resource to each other and we must never undermine the strength of anyone in our caucus.”
If any of her members have a complaint, Pelosi said, they should talk to her about it. “But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK,” she said.
It was a pointed message to the most left-wing members of the caucus and their staff, with whom Pelosi has been publicly feuding.
“You make me the target, but don’t make our Blue Dogs and our New Dems the target in all of this,” she said, referring to two of the more conservative Democratic groups. “Because we have important fish to fry.”
Pelosi's deputy chief of staff argued that Pelosi's caucus message was not aimed at any particular group.
Pelosi’s comments Wednesday come after the House recently passed a border funding bill, despite resistance from progressives. Citing the concerns of more moderate members, Pelosi got behind the Republican-led, Senate version of a border spending bill, and the House passed it with no strings attached.
Four freshman members, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley — known collectively as “the squad” — voted against the measure.
“We didn’t even bother to negotiate,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN at the time. The bill, she said, was “completely irresponsible to the American people and to those kids on the border.”
But tensions really flared over the weekend, when the New York Times published an interview with Pelosi, where Maureen Dowd asked about tensions with Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar, and Pressley after they voted against the bill. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” the speaker said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”
Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Tlaib were quick to hit back on Twitter.
“That public 'whatever' is called public sentiment,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.”
“Patetico! You know they’re just salty about WHO is wielding the power to shift 'public sentiment' these days, sis,” Omar tweeted. “Sorry not sorry.”
Tlaib, for her part, kept it simple, writing, “Why would we fund a broken system that rips children away from their parents, deny asylum seekers due process & fuels a racist ideology that dehumanizes people?"
Pressley did not respond publicly until Tuesday evening, when the Massachusetts member took a less combative stance, saying it was an issue of particular importance to her district, which has a large population of immigrants.
In the days since, a House Democratic source said, Pelosi has not reached out to the group directly. On Wednesday afternoon, Ocasio-Cortez responded to Pelosi's comments at the caucus meeting, telling BuzzFeed News: "I think the issue at hand is that it’s not just about Caucus dynamics, this is about children dying in DHS and ICE custody. And that’s ultimately what this is about, this is not about any kind of political dynamic."
She added that in her criticism of the bill, she was not trying to "attack" any particular group but rather stand up for her constituents.
"I think that it would be hypocritical to me to remain silent on injustices just because those injustices may come from our side of the aisle," she said. "I think that it erodes one's integrity and neglect to only point out wrongs when Republicans do them and to not point out wrongs when Democrats do them too, frankly."
Several members, asked by BuzzFeed News for their reaction to the feud ahead of the caucus meeting Wednesday, said the party needed to focus on substantive issues.
“We’ve got to move forward, unify as a party. I think the party’s going to be focused on getting things done,” Rep. Ro Khanna, often an ally of Ocasio-Cortez’s, said as he entered the room.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, asked for his thoughts, only laughed and said, “What battle?”
The responses were sure to please Pelosi.
“Don’t play into [the GOP’s] hands. Every day some of our members have to fight the fight for their reelection,” she said. “In their districts, it makes a difference for what we can do for the American people if we have the majority.”
Wednesday’s meeting lasted longer than usual, making House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries late for his scheduled press conference. When he arrived, a reporter asked how the party was doing, noting the weeks of public infighting.
“It’s all puppies and rainbows,” Jeffries said.
But moments later, as she left the caucus meeting, a reporter asked Pelosi if she had any regrets about her comments to the Times.
"No, I do not. Four people voted for the bill. That's what I said. And no other people followed,” she said. “I have no regrets about anything. Regrets is not what I do."
This post has been updated with additional comments from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.