House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one of the most high-profile freshmen members – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York – met behind closed doors Friday following a few tumultuous weeks for the Democrats that have exposed a rift between party leaders and more progressive lawmakers new to Capitol Hill.
“Today, Congresswoman @RepAOC and I sat down to discuss working together to meet the needs of our districts and our country, fairness in our economy and diversity in our country,” Pelosi tweeted following the meeting with a picture of the two lawmakers.
At a news conference later Friday, Pelosi disputed the idea that there was any “hatchet” that required burying between the two lawmakers – despite times in the past month when they’ve both criticized each other publicly – and described Ocasio-Cortez as “very gracious.”
“I’ve always felt, again it’s like you’re in a family,” Pelosi said, when asked about differences with Ocasio-Cortez. “In a family, you have your differences, but you’re still a family. Does your family always agree on everything?”
Ocasio-Cortez told reporters Friday that it was a “positive meeting and productive.”
“I’m looking forward to us continuing our work,” she said. “As always, I think the speaker respects that we’re coming together as a party and that unity, and I’m looking forward to us getting back in September.”
Ocasio-Cortez had said the day before the meeting that “the goal is just to open a line of communication” and that “working people have a seat at the table in what’s happening in Congress.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents one fourth of the freshmen Democratic quartet commonly known as “The Squad,” has butted heads with Pelosi, most notably in recent days over a dispute for funding to aid the humanitarian crisis at the US southern border. Shortly after Congress addressed the issue, Pelosi made incendiary comments to The New York Times about how the group of progressive freshmen “didn’t have any following” in Congress, leading Ocasio-Cortez to tell The Washington Post that Pelosi has been “singling out” freshman congresswomen of color with her criticism.
House Democrats largely unified however following a series of racist tweets and comments from President Donald Trump, who earlier this month urged “The Squad” to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All four progressive congresswomen are US citizens and three of the four, including Ocasio-Cortez, were born in the US. The House in response passed a resolution condemning Trump’s comments.
The freshmen class of Democratic lawmakers who entered Congress in January have been making headlines unlike most classes before them. Freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of California told CNN that the class met last week to talk about divisions within the Democratic caucus and other issues.
“I do think that we have had a lot of conversations as freshman to try to understand each other and each other’s districts and what we were elected to do,” Hill told CNN. Hill said following the meeting, “I feel like this week, you are seeing more mutual understanding.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.