Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday waded into the rift between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a group of progressive freshmen lawmakers, stating that Pelosi ought to “bring them in” rather than “alienate them.”
“You cannot ignore the young people of this country who are passionate about economic and racial and social and environmental justice,” the Vermont Senator told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet The Press.” “You got to bring them in, not alienate them.”
When pressed on whether Pelosi had been too tough on the group, Sanders said,” I think a little bit.”
The House Democrats – often referred to on Capitol Hill as “the squad” – includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Tension between the group and Pelosi has spilled into the public eye in recent weeks with Ocasio-Cortez stating that Pelosi has been “singling out” freshmen congresswomen of color.
“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post in an interview published last week.
“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,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
Pelosi did not directly address the comments during her weekly news conference Thursday, only stating that “we respect the value of every member of our caucus” and “the diversity of it all is a wonderful thing.” The House Speaker argued the source of tension between her and the freshmen lawmakers was spawned after she addressed a now-deleted tweet from Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff that compared moderates to segregationists.
“How they’re interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them, but I’m not going to be discussing it any further,” Pelosi said.
Despite the Democratic rift, Pelosi came to the defense of the group of congresswomen Sunday after President Donald Trump launched a series of racist tweets aimed at the group – falsely implying they weren’t natural-born American citizens and sarcastically suggesting, “They go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again,” Pelosi tweeted. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”
Sanders, who has previously aligned himself with Ocasio-Cortez to push progressive ideas in Congress, added Sunday that the freshmen lawmakers have taken important steps in reaching younger voters.
“We have got to reach out to young people,” he said. “We have got to heal the pain of the working class of this country.”
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Manu Raju and Devan Cole contributed to this report.