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Days after Republicans defied expectations by picking up seats in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy cited a junior member of Congress — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) — as one of the reasons he was able to raise so much money.

Driving the news: "Well, she runs the floor," McCarthy told "Axios on HBO" last night when asked why Republicans respond so vociferously to AOC.

  • "That wing of the party, the socialist wing of the party, they are the new power of the Democratic Party. ... You watched on the floor. Legislation couldn't be passed unless AOC agreed with it."

Why it matters: House Democrats underperformed Biden in down-ballot races across the country and they're scrambling to figure out why.

  • Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said she wouldn't run for re-election as chair of House Democrats' campaign arm after a heated caucus call last in which one moderate member warned her colleagues: "We need to not ever use the words socialist or socialism ever again."

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the top African-American lawmaker in the House, had a similar message, telling "Axios on HBO": "Stop sloganeering. Sloganeering kills people. Sloganeering destroys movements."

  • "This foolishness about you got to be this progressive or that progressive. That phrase "defund the police" cost Jaime Harrison tremendously. I'm not saying it was the only problem," Clyburn told Alexi McCammond, acknowledging that he was angry.
  • "When you ask somebody, 'Why would you want to defund the police?' They'll tell you, 'That's not what we mean. This is what we mean.' My position is in politics, the moment you start explaining what you mean, you are losing the argument."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) defended his colleagues in the Progressive Caucus, saying it's "normal" and "healthy" to have disagreements in a big-tent party — while pushing back on the idea that slogans like "defund the police" are the reason Democrats lost.

  • "Eighty-something percent in the exit polls said they trusted Donald Trump more on the economy than they trusted the Democrats. That's a sobering, shocking statistic," Khanna told Jonathan Swan. "They trusted us on everything else."
  • Khanna added that he believes the role of progressives in a reduced majority will be to continue to vote and build consensus on ideas like Medicare for All, even if they have no chance of making it through a GOP-controlled Senate.
  • "I view politics as a long game. And I think we have to push for wins on our policies, not compromise on them, while at the same time looking for what we can do in the here and now."

Go deeper

LGTBQ+ leaders back Cicilline for House leadership

Rep. David N. Cicilline. Photo: Graeme Jennings/Pool via AFP

A large group of LGTBQ+ leaders is endorsing Rep. David N. Cicilline in his bid to become assistant speaker of the House of Representatives.

Why it matters: Cicilline, the only openly gay member of the House leadership, is running against Rep. Katherine M. Clark for the fourth-ranking position in the House Democratic caucus as voting takes place this week.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 deaths.
  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  4. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.