“Look, we wouldn’t have an A.C.A., we wouldn’t have all of the progressive policies that we have if it weren’t for her, and she has molded a caucus that, especially in these last several months, made unbelievable strides in terms of public policy,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, a close ally of the speaker. “We have these young women who have new and great energy and ideas, and I welcome all of that, but the idea that there is some outcry against the speaker of the House? They speak for themselves, but the caucus is squarely behind Nancy Pelosi.”
The speaker is also giving voice to an undercurrent of resentment among Democratic lawmakers toward Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her group, whom they see as using their megaphones to sow intraparty divisions and burnish their own brands without achieving any results for Democrats. On Tuesday, some senior Democrats were working behind the scenes to try to smooth over those raw feelings, according to one lawmaker involved in the effort, recognizing that Ms. Pelosi’s dismissive comments about the squad’s political celebrity could do lasting damage.
But Ms. Pelosi insists she was not trying to take anything away from the group.
“It wasn’t dismissive; it was a statement of fact,” Ms. Pelosi told a reporter in San Francisco on Monday, saying while most House Democrats had “voted to protect the children” by supporting the House’s humanitarian aid bill, the squad had chosen not to. “They were four who argued against the bill, and they were the only four who voted against the bill. All I said was nobody followed their lead.”
“They have a following in the public,” Ms. Pelosi added. “I’m just talking about in the Congress.”
The foursome has helped to redefine their party’s message, pushing multi-trillion-dollar ideas like the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, and tuition-free college that have drawn broad rhetorical support, including from Democratic presidential candidates. But they have yet to translate their vision into concrete legislative achievement.
The squad and its allies argue that they are tapping into the real energy in the Democratic base with their uncompromising and unapologetic stances.
“Representing the movement that actually helped to put everyone in Congress into office and give Pelosi her gavel is a critical role, and they’ve been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of what is possible in Congress,” said Leah Greenberg, the executive director of Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group.
Liberal activists tried to use the speaker’s comments to stoke outrage — and to raise money to mount primaries against incumbent Democrats they deem insufficiently liberal.