House Democrats who tangled with leader not backing down
By JUANA SUMMERS Associated Press
July 13, 2019 05:14 PM
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, gestures while testifying before the House Oversight Committee hearing on family separation and detention centers, Friday, July 12, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Days after tensions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boiled over publicly, several House Democrats sent a message to Washington: We’re not backing down.
Three members of the “squad” — the cadre of liberal freshman lawmakers who are struggling with their party’s more centrist members over impeachment, immigration and other issues — defended their approach Saturday while appearing on a panel at the annual Netroots conference. All are young women of color, a fact not lost on supporters who have bridled at the criticism thrown their way.
“We never need to ask for permission or wait for an invitation to lead,” Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said when asked what she would say to women of color who are frustrated or hurt by comments that seek to minimize their impact or vilify them. She said later that there’s a “constant struggle oftentimes with people who have power about sharing that power.”
Omar added: “We are not really in the business of asking for the share of that power. We’re in the business of trying to grab that power and return it to the people.”
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Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan joined Omar and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., on the Netroots panel. The “squad” member with the highest profile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., did not attend.
“I think you have to be unapologetically you,” Tlaib said. “Sometimes that means — I know for me and a number of my sisters, we represent our districts and we focus on the things that matter in our districts and to bring them into this space. And that does sometimes — that does mean I have to vote no on detaining children at the border.”
Infighting between liberal and centrist House Democrats was highlighted last week by Pelosi’s seemingly dismissive words aimed at the freshmen. Pelosi told The New York Times that “they’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got,” a remark that brought criticism that Pelosi was marginalizing women of color.
“The women of color who have entered Congress, they’re more than four votes,” said Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People and the panel’s moderator. “For millions of us, these women of color in Congress represent generations of blood, sweat and tears and struggle.”
Pelosi has cast the sniping among House Democrats as a threat to achieving common goals, one of them to defeat Trump’s bid for reelection. Ocasio-Cortez has complained about the consolidation of power in Congress and wants Democrats to be bold about their priorities.
Pressley quoted the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s feminist mantra in saying that rather than bringing her own chair to the proverbial table, “this is the time to shake the table, this is the time to redefine that table.” Chisholm was a pioneering African American who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.
“Moving forward, I’m just appealing to all of you to recognize that our destinies and our freedoms are tied. Please do not feed any scarcity mindset,” Pressley said. “Now is not the time to be territorial about oppression and trauma. Because this is a coordinated systemic attack and we are all losing.”
Asked whether she still believes Trump must be impeached, Tlaib reprised her controversial statement — minus the overt profanity — made just hours after she was sworn into office last January.
“We’re going to impeach the MF-er,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
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Is a national and foreign correspondent based in D.C. She files investigative reports and covers breaking news on a range of topics, including corruption, police shootings, etc. Before joining the TimWorld in 2018, she worked at the Miami Herald. She was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University.