House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood by her controversial comments about four progressive Democrats who voted against a House bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the border but faced pushback from some on the far-left for not being strong enough.
In a news conference on Monday, Pelosi argued the four congresswomen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — opposed a bill that was designed “to protect children,” though she did not mention the members by name.
“All I said was a statement of fact, the four of them opposed the bill. We were protecting the children. Overwhelmingly, our caucus voted to protect the children — our blue dogs, our moderates and all the rest voted to protect the children,” Pelosi said.
“They did not,” she continued. “And they did not have a further following. So that was what I was saying. They have a following in the public, but I’m just talking about in the Congress.”
In an interview with The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Pelosi argued the four freshmen made themselves irrelevant by opposing the bill, as they were the only four Democrats who voted against it.
“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” she told Dowd. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”
Her comment drew ire from supporters of the four congresswomen who argued Pelosi was minimizing their political influence.
The four Democrats say they opposed the bill because they felt it funded the President’s border policies, and they expressed concern the administration wouldn’t use the money properly.
Asked to clarify her comment at the news conference, Pelosi argued Monday her comment to the Times was not “dismissive” but factual.
“They were four who argued against the bill, and they were the only four who voted against the bill,” Pelosi said Monday. “All I said was nobody followed their lead, that’s what that was.”
While the bill still passed, it faced a veto threat from the White House and was not picked up by the GOP-controlled Senate. Instead, the Senate passed their own version, which had overwhelming bipartisan support, and sent it back to the House.
Democratic leaders initially pushed to amend the Senate version to include some of the initial provisions they were seeking but ultimately backed down after moderate Democrats threatened to tank the amended Senate version on the House floor.
The House ended up voting on and passing the Senate version with no changes. The four congresswomen, along with dozens of other Democrats, voted against the bill, but it still passed due to Republican support.
Pelosi, meanwhile, is pushing the President to make administrative changes that mirror the provisions progressives sought, like requiring Congress to be notified within 24 hours of the death of a child in custody.
Pelosi’s comment to the Times were criticized over the weekend by the members as well as their supporters.
“That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Saturday, referring to Pelosi’s comment. “And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Tlaib said, “We know what it feels like to be dehumanized, we know what it feels like to be brown and black in this country.”
“I honor the fact that we are there,” she added. “All of us have these experiences that I think have been missing in the halls of Congress. Honor that, respect that, put us at the table. Let’s come up with a solution together.”
Rep. Ro Khanna, a progressive from California, came to their defense.
“Do not dismiss@AOC for casting lonely votes,” he wrote on Twitter. “I voted yes for the House bill & no on the Senate. But I am glad the body has voices of moral dissent. History proves that dissent provokes reflection & change.”