Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY); Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) (Getty/Zach Gibson/Win McNamee/AP/Andrew Harnik)

Jayapal plans to confront Pelosi over clash with Ocasio-Cortez and “the squad”

"I don't think the speaker is used to having a group of members who has bigger Twitter followings than her“


Shira Tarlo
July 11, 2019 8:34PM (UTC)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said she plans to directly confront House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., over her days-long public clash with the four prominent progressive freshmen members of Congress known as “the squad.”

"I don't think the speaker is used to having a group of members who has bigger Twitter followings than her. I don't think most of us are," Jayapal, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Politico on Thursday.

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Tension between the House leader and the four women lawmakers of color — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — appeared to reach a boiling point in recent days after Pelosi criticized the so-called "squad" over its decision to vote against a recent border security bill.

In an interview with the New York Times, which was published Saturday, Pelosi appeared to question how much political influence “the squad” actually has, as the four members were the only House Democrats who voted against the legislation.

"All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn't have any following. They're four people — and that's how many votes they got," Pelosi told the newspaper.

Ocasio-Cortez fired back at Pelosi, first in a series of tweets and then in an interview with the Washington Post, in which she called attention to the “singling out” of women of color.

"That public 'whatever' is called public sentiment," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Saturday. "And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country."

On Wednesday, the outspoken lawmaker told the Post: "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."

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"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," she added.

Ocasio-Cortez's remarks came hours after Pelosi reportedly gave a forceful speech at a closed-door meeting, in which she admonished party members for publicly attacking one another over policy disputes on social media.

"So, again, you got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it," Pelosi said Wednesday, according to Politico. "But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK."

The House speaker has appeared to stand by her controversial comments, telling reporters Thursday at her weekly news conference: "I've said what I'm going to say in the caucus. I'm not going to be addressing it any further."

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Pelosi said she referenced "an offensive tweet" from a member's office at Wednesday's meeting. Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff came under scrutiny in recent days for tweets criticizing Pelosi and comparing moderate Democrats to segregationist senators.

“They took offense, because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the member’s offices that referenced our Blue Dogs and our New Dems essentially as segregationists,” Pelosi said.

"I addressed that," Pelosi continued, in reference to the tweet. "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."

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Although Pelosi appeared intent on refocusing the party's attention on Thursday, Jayapal said Ocasio-Cortez's accusation that Pelosi works to "diminish progressive power" in the caucus struck a chord for her.

"God, it totally resonates with me, absolutely," she told Politico. "We women of color have faced this for such a long time."


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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