I read today where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is upset with many of her colleagues in the Democrat caucus because they had the nerve to vote the way they felt their constituents would want them to vote. This vote came on a procedural motion in the House which at the end allows the minority party to offer amendments and file a Motion to Recommit (MTR).
The particular vote occurred on a gun reform bill that would require universal background checks. This bill had the votes to pass among the Democrat majority but then Republicans offered an amendment that would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be notified if someone illegally in the country tried to purchase a gun. The liberals in the caucus all recoiled at anything that would empower ICE but the moderates, particularly those that had just won swing districts in the last election, found themselves in a box. Should they vote with the party leadership and run the risk of having this used against them in an election next cycle or should they protect their own political fortunes vote for this amendment? In the end, almost 30 of them decided to vote their conscience and the party leadership be damned.
What Nancy Pelosi is now finding is that she has a divided caucus. Just as Speaker Boehner and Speaker Ryan could not control the right wing of their party, it cost many of the moderate Republicans seats. Pelosi is finding it difficult to keep everyone in line in the new Congress. When you are in the minority it is easier to get everyone to vote as a bloc because you don’t really have any power. I remember a former Congressman who was in the minority party telling me that he just went to the floor and voted no every time because that was all he could do. But when you are in the majority you are expected to be able to pass legislation and when various segments of your caucus are at odds with each other it becomes very difficult and in some cases like herding cats.
In the caucus meeting after having to pull down the gun bill Speaker Pelosi pleaded with the moderates to stay the course and just vote no on Republican procedural motions. The new darling of the Democrat Party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was more vocal. AOC called them out and said she “was making a list” and would have more progressive candidates challenge them in a primary next time around. As you can imagine this was met with some stunned silence. Here was this 29-year-old freshman dictating to the members of the caucus on how they should vote or she would try to get them defeated. Now that is some real chutzpah. Several members of the caucus made it clear they would vote how they felt best and did not want to hear advice from this upstart.
I was told by a member of the Democrat caucus that Speaker Pelosi cringes every time she hears AOC speaking and is under pressure from many members of the caucus to put a muzzle on her. There is little Pelosi can do. AOC is the darling of the media and just as they helped create Donald Trump by feasting on every word he mouthed, and she has been given the same accord. She has the bullhorn in the political world, and she is not shy about using it.
So as a moderate conservative I urge her to keep on talking. She is fast becoming the personage that Republicans will run against replacing Nancy Pelosi. She was able to claim credit for tubing the Amazon deal in New York and quickly suggested they could use the mythical $3B in tax credits for other projects. It was up to Democrats like Blasio and Cuomo to express their outrage and point out that there was no $3B and in fact they have lost about $27B in real tax revenue. Now AOC has her minions fired up to oppose the Amazon deal in Northern Virginia. I suspect that the local government officials in Arlington and Alexandria Virginia will not allow that to happen.
But in the meantime, the Democrats are left with two problems. How to corral their votes on procedural motions by Republicans and not let sabotage their agenda and how to slow down AOC and her allies who threaten their majority.