Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is among allies defending Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi against criticisms from fiscally conservative Blue Dogs that she has not tried reaching out to them.
“She’s been reaching out all across the Caucus,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the other Steering and Policy Committee vice chairwoman. “There are a lot more people in leadership meetings now, a lot more different kinds of voices. We are spending a tremendous amount of time in planning meetings, communication, talking about our agenda, our message. I have seen a very diverse array of Members that previously — I don’t think — would have been at the table. So I think she’s making a significant effort.”
Pelosi’s top lieutenant, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, on Tuesday disputed Shuler’s claim and defended Pelosi’s efforts to reach out to Blue Dogs and moderates in the Caucus.
“I really don’t think his characterization of Nancy is correct in terms of reaching out,” Hoyer said on MSNBC Tuesday, adding that Pelosi meets “with Blue Dogs on a regular basis.”
One Democratic leadership staffer said of Shuler’s comments, “It’s clear who his target is and that she’s got to decide how she wants to handle it.”
But Democratic sources acknowledge that no formal meeting between Pelosi and the Blue Dog leaders has taken place this year. And spokesmen for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said neither Republican leaders has met formally with the Blue Dogs, either.
Pelosi does have a history of meeting with the Blue Dogs as circumstances arise. In June, she and the rest of her leadership team huddled with the Blue Dogs to try to quell a revolt stemming from their concerns that they were being asked to vote for a campaign finance bill that had drawn fire from the business community and was viewed as having slim chance of passing the Senate.
More recently, the Blue Dogs, a group that was founded in the aftermath of the 1994 GOP takeover, have shown they are still willing to break with their party leadership. Three Blue Dog leaders — Shuler, Mike Ross (Ark.) and Dan Boren (Okla.) — were among the five Democrats to vote Jan. 19 against their party’s lone proposal to modify Republicans’ health care repeal bill.
Still, Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the Minority Leader “will work with all members of the Caucus” to create jobs, reduce the deficit and strengthen the middle class.
And a staffer with ties to another moderate group, the New Democrat Coalition, said that while Pelosi has not had a formal meeting with that group either, “the New Dems have always had a solid working relationship with Democratic leadership.”
“I think that will continue this Congress,” the staffer added.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.