House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brushed aside questions Thursday about her feud with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying the freshman lawmaker’s “offense” was misplaced and warning fellow Democrats to control their attacks on one another.
Mrs. Pelosi made the comments a day after she blasted Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff for suggesting that conservative-leaning Democrats were racist for supporting a border funding bill and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said she was being disrespectfully singled out on racial grounds.
Mrs. Pelosi told reporters she wouldn’t respond — and then she did so.
“They took offense because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of our member’s offices that referenced our Blue Dogs and our New Dems essentially as segregationists,” the California Democrat said.
“Blue Dogs” are the most conservative House Democrats, and the New Democrats tilt toward the moderate side of the party.
“How they’re interpreting it and carrying it to another place is up to them,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
The feuding took on a public character last month as Mrs. Pelosi tried to figure out how to handle the border crisis and President Trump’s demand for emergency funding to provide better care for the migrants being detained.
Mrs. Pelosi was trapped between the Senate, which passed a bipartisan bill giving Mr. Trump most of what he wanted, and her own left wing, with lawmakers including Ms. Ocasio-Cortez objecting to the Senate bill. House Democrats wrote their own legislation, but even that was too much for the New York Democrat and three other prominent liberal freshmen, all of them women of color.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, took to Twitter to hint that racism was behind the more moderate lawmakers’ desire to pass the Senate bill.
“You can be someone who does not personally harbor ill will towards a race, but through your actions still enable a racist system,” he tweeted. “And a lot of New Democrats and Blue Dogs did that today.”
He also attacked Mrs. Pelosi’s leadership. He said the speaker “claims we can’t focus on impeachment because it’s a distraction from kitchen table issues. But I’d challenge you to find voters that can name a single thing House Democrats have done for their kitchen table this year. What is this legislative mastermind doing?”
“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 told The Washington Post in an interview.
Other Democrats said they wanted to put an end to the sniping.
Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Pramila Jayapal of Washington, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters that they plan to meet with Mrs. Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland to discuss liberal priorities and to talk about the fissures.
Ms. Jayapal, an immigrant from India, said she could relate to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s complaint and that a larger conversation is needed.
“I’ve generally seen Speaker Pelosi be very, very respectful of her members,” she told reporters. “I would like to know what’s going on here because I don’t think this is typically — the comments she made, however she meant them, have a certain interpretation, obviously.”
Mr. Pocan said liberals want to remind Democratic leaders that they have been loyal to the party despite the recent squabbles.
“We just want to have a general conversation, maybe remember, you know, who your allies are,” he said.
Yet Mr. Pocan sparked his own round of complaints from Democrats for calling the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus “child abusers” during the border bill debate. He said their differences have been patched up.
“It gets blown over by actions more than words,” Mr. Pocan said. “I think we should all be trying to realize we’re a majority with every single member.”
One conservative Democrat, however, was still frustrated with the “bomb throwing” tactics from within the party and told The Washington Times that there hasn’t been a reconciliation.
The lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said to expect Democratic unity to return next week with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony.
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