Pelosi to Caucus: Keep Internal Matters Internal

Posted May 11, 2005 at 7:12pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the first time Wednesday addressed the full complement of House Democrats about recent ideological divisions within the Caucus, working to dispel talk of a larger rift and encouraging party unity.

Pelosi, in the weekly Caucus meeting, told members she no longer wants to read about private House Democratic affairs in the press. She also noted that while Caucus members disagree on a range of topics, when they travel the country they are all of one party and are fighting for the same goal — to take back the House.

“It was more or less a reminder that we are a family — and that we have many different viewpoints within our family,” said one aide who was in the room. “Her comments signal that she’s tired of hearing about this and reading about [the divisions] in the press, and she and most Members are ready to move on.”

Another senior staffer in the room said Pelosi tried to make clear to members that she is their biggest advocate, and defends them and works on their behalf. She stressed that she “expects the same from them” and doesn’t want them sharing internal matters with the media.

According to one leadership aide, Pelosi said: “What binds us is that we are Democrats, we are family and we need truth and trust and breathing room to talk about what we believe and where we stand.”

There has been a ripple of tension in the Caucus that emerged following last month’s bankruptcy vote in which liberal and centrist Democrats came down on different sides of the issue. Pelosi sided with progressive Members in opposing the bill, while moderates — including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) — voted in favor.

The divide on the vote erupted into an angry private whip meeting during which Hoyer defended the moderates’ votes and Pelosi the progressives’. The Minority Leader took particular issue with the centrist and conservative Caucus members who penned a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) urging the bill be brought to the floor.

Since then, Pelosi has worked to mend tensions by meeting privately with several leaders of the moderate and conservative factions of the party, but many still feel there are larger issues in play, including that the liberal wing often alienates centrists when they vote against the majority of Democrats.

Sources said Wednesday, however, that Pelosi “struck a conciliatory tone” and attempted to give credit to conservatives and moderates on key issues such as deficit reduction. But as one Democratic source said, Pelosi “struck the tone she should have struck at the whip meeting.”

Several aides in the meeting said Pelosi, who received applause for her remarks, was trying to encourage members to put past divisions behind them. She stressed that the political climate is making for “an ideal time for Democrats” and an ideal time “to get out and tell people what they believe and stand for,” one aide noted.

“It was Pelosi trying to rally people, telling them, ‘Let’s move forward,’” described yet another staffer.