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House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn isn't happy with his Democratic caucus for allowing slogans to dominate the narrative about their party, telling "Axios on HBO" that phrases like "defund the police" cost them crucial seats in the House and Senate.

Why it matters: Democrats might have won the White House, but their party underperformed expectations in the congressional elections, and some members are publicly and privately blaming their more liberal colleagues.

  • Democrats were bullish about expanding their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives ahead of the election, but ended up losing at least seven seats and some of their freshman members who flipped Republican districts just two years ago.
  • They still maintain control of that chamber, but failed to win the Senate outright. (That could change if Democratic candidates win both of the Georgia Senate runoffs in January.)

What they're saying: "Well, it happened simply because we were not able to discipline ourselves," Clyburn told "Axios on HBO."

  • "We keep making that mistake. This foolishness about, 'You got to be this progressive or that progressive,'" he added.
  • "That phrase — 'defund the police' — cost Jaime Harrison tremendously," Clyburn said of the Democratic Senate candidate who failed to unseat Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham South Carolina.

Between the lines: Though Clyburn acknowledged that wasn't the only reason for Harrison's loss, he took aim at the "sloganeering" around liberal policies and implored his Democratic colleagues "to be as practical as I am."

  • "Stop sloganeering," he said. "Sloganeering kills people. Sloganeering destroys movements. Stop sloganeering. And let's go about the business of representing people and building hopes and aspirations for people."
  • Clyburn isn't alone. Last week, leaked audio from a Democratic caucus-wide conference call revealed several members feel the same.
  • Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas said these slogans gave Republicans ammunition to use in “commercial after commercial” against their candidates.
  • Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who eked out a re-election victory in Virginia, took aim at her colleagues who have embraced the "defund the police" movement and said Democrats needed to be better at fighting the "socialism" label.

Go deeper

Poll: Mayors acknowledge police violence as a problem but are resistant to major reforms

Thousands participated in a protest against racism and police brutality in August 2020 in Washington D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Roughly 60% of U.S. mayors acknowledge police violence is a "problem in their communities," but 80% believe their police departments "do a good job" attracting "well-suited" officers, according to results of the 2020 Menino Survey of Mayors published Wednesday.

Why it matters: Protests against police brutality have swept the nation since last May, when white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, a Black man, after kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The Black Lives Matter movement has since escalated calls to defund the police.

Pelosi announces bid for re-election ahead of 2022 midterms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her bid for re-election Tuesday, amid a deluge of other safe-seat Democrats announcing their retirements.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s announcement follows months of speculation — despite her denials — that she was preparing to leave Congress.

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.