“This is not a day at the beach. This is the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi said, according to two sources.
The caucus meeting exposed the divide between moderates and progressives, with Pelosi saying that being a member of Congress requires taking tough votes.
Pelosi also said vulnerable Democrats who had the “courage” to vote against the Republican motions to recommit would become a higher priority for the party leadership and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the superstar New York freshman lawmaker, suggested she would start a list to alert progressive activists when Democrats are voting with the GOP, sources said.
Democrats didn’t agree to any rules change and will continue to study the issue. A motion to recommit offers the minority in the House one last chance at changing legislation before it receives a final floor vote. It rarely succeeds, but is used to try to squeeze the majority party.
The controversy seems to have divided Pelosi and her lieutenants, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Pelosi argues that Democrats must stick together on procedural votes, but Hoyer and Clyburn disagree.
Republicans have won two motions to recommit so far this year. The House debated legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales — a position favored by Democrats. When Republicans moved to amend the bill to require Immigration and Customs Enforcement be told of any undocumented immigrant who tries to buy a gun, 26 Democrats voted with the GOP. The language was added to the gun bill, spoiling an important Democratic achievement.
An earlier GOP motion condemning anti-Semitism was successfully attached to a House resolution barring U.S. involvement in the Yemeni civil war. That motion was backed by every Democrat.
During the closed-door meeting, Pelosi said Democrats who vote for the Republicans’ motions are putting pressure on other vulnerable colleagues who would prefer to stick with the party.
“We are either a team or we’re not, and we have to make that decision,” she said.
Pelosi told reporters afterward that she thinks Democrats should simply vote against the GOP motions, saying to do so otherwise gives Republicans “leverage.”
“I’m a big believer in respecting the whole House and the rights of the minority to have their say,” Pelosi said. “I think we should just vote against all motions to recommit. It’s a procedural vote, it’s a ‘gotcha’ on the part of the opposition.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she has “a text chain with 200 activists in her district” that she’s in constant contact with, telling them she “had to choose between immigrants and gun violence. Not because of Republicans, but because of Democrats,” said a source.
“I think it is an extension of Trump’s tactics into the House, and we cannot legitimatize it and we cannot allow for it and we cannot support it,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters after the meeting.
A Democratic aide aligned with the moderate wing said it was hypocritical for progressives to complain about the tough vote they had to take.
“Moderates are in tough positions all the time, and they don’t shy away from that,” the aide said. “They have to vote their districts or they will be defeated, plain and simple. The rest of the caucus should [understand] that.”