Jul 14, 2019

House progressives speak out amid Pelosi tension

Reps. Ilhan Omar (L), Ayanna Pressley (C) and Rashida Tlaib. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

During a Netroots Nation panel discussion on Saturday, liberal freshman lawmakers addressed struggles they'd faced and the importance of women of color speaking up, amid tension between Democratic progressives and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

What they're saying: Days after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) accused Pelosi of "singling out" newly elected women of color, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) noted there's a struggle "oftentimes with people who have power about sharing that power. ... We’re in the business of trying to grab that power and return it to the people."

  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said she thinks it's important to be "unapologetically" yourself. And Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said she didn't want to bring a chair to the table, she wanted to "shake the table" and redefine it.
"[I]f you're going to come to this table, all of you who have aspirations of running for office. If you’re not prepared to come to that table and represent that voice, don’t come, because we don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice.
"We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice. If you’re worried about being marginalized and stereotyped, please don’t even show up because we need you to represent that voice."
— Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Context: Both sides have publicly aired disagreements in recent days. Pelosi singled out Omar, Tlaib, Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez — known as "the squad" — in an interview with the New York Times last week for their use of Twitter. Pelosi reportedly warned progressives in a closed-door meeting Wednesday to air party grievances privately.

The big picture: Tension in the Democratic Party has escalated since progressives spoke out last month after a House border funding bill that included more protections for migrant children was blocked by moderate Democrats. The Senate's version was passed instead.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Pelosi's comments were not "helpful to a broader picture of how we build progressive power in the House and what it looks like relative to overall Democratic power," according to HuffPost.

Why it matters: The situation highlights the political and generational divide between the most powerful woman in U.S. politics and the progressives trying to push the party left.

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