In recent days, it has become more apparent there are some deep divisions within the Democratic caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, which holds a 37-seat majority and is under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Freshman member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused Pelosi of “the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color” in comments to The Washington Post. That was a sentiment Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti had echoed earlier in a tweet and pointed to “New Democrats and Blue Dogs” specifically.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), the vice chair of the New Democrat Coalition and also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, rejected such racial criticisms.
“So, to even insinuate that I, or any other member of the New Dems, would promote policies that are racist and hateful or ones that would negatively impact communities of color is deeply offensive and couldn’t be further from the truth,” Sewell said in a statement.
Ocasio-Cortez, along with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) have formed what they are calling “the squad,” which has directly taken on Pelosi in recent days.
A story from Politico on Thursday offered more details of Sewell’s role in the on-going internal Democratic caucus dispute. According to the account, Sewell reached out to Ocasio-Cortez.
Rep. Terri Sewell, a vice chair of the New Democrats, has reached out to Ocasio-Cortez several times to discuss Chakrabarti’s controversial tweets but has not heard back, according to an account relayed by Rep. Derek Kilmer during a meeting in Pelosi’s office on Wednesday.
Kilmer, who is chairman of the New Dems, recounted the story during Pelosi’s weekly meeting with leaders of the various Democratic interest groups within the caucus, according to two sources with knowledge of the exchange.
Sewell, who is African American, represents Birmingham, Ala., a city with a lengthy and at times horrific civil rights legacy. On Thursday, she released a statement strongly criticizing the comparison of New Dems to pro-segregationists.
In an interview, she said, “I’m not going to talk about my own private talks with members. But it’s enough to say that I’ve issued my statement about the tweet that her chief of staff did. I was highly offended by that — I represent the Deep South.”
But Ocasio-Cortez disputed the account that she had ignored a phone call from Sewell: “I do know that she called me once and I returned her call. We missed each other right before I went to the border.”
Sewell’s office declined to comment further about the two members’ private conversations.