House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a new biography slams the Tea Party movement and any comparisons between it and the liberal Squad, despite similarities others pointed out between the right-wing grassroots movement and far-left Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Pelosi, D-Calif., made the comments in an interview with USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page as part of Page’s biography of the House speaker set to be released this week. The biography is titled “Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power.”
Page wrote that she asked Pelosi about parallels between the Squad – Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., along with Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. – and the Tea Party. Pelosi wouldn’t even let Page finish the question before shutting down the idea.
“There is absolutely no equivalence between the dynamism in a political party that has diversity of opinion and obstruction that existed with the Tea Party, who are anti-science and anti-governance,” Pelosi told Page of the movement that emerged as a conservative wing of the GOP in 2010.
“So when the press makes this equivalence, it’s like, what could you possibly be thinking? With all due respect,” Pelosi continued.
There are indeed some significant differences between the Squad and the Tea Party, one of which Pelosi has pointed out herself – there aren’t many Squad members in Congress.
The Tea Party morphed into the Freedom Caucus, which has changed its focus through the years and is now mainly a group of rabble-rousing pro-Trump members of Congress. But it’s regularly maintained a membership of two dozen to four dozen.
“They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got,” Pelosi said of the Squad in a 2019 New York Times interview.
The Squad’s numbers did increase in 2020, as multiple Democrats backed by Justice Democrats, the organization that boosted Ocasio-Cortez’s initial run for Congress, ousted Democratic incumbents in primaries.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., beat longtime former Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., ousted powerful former Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. That increased the Squad’s strength to six.
And the Squad’s social media following and the enthusiasm for its members among the Democratic base also strengthen its influence beyond just a handful of House votes.
“What we went through in 2012 and 2010 with the so-called Tea Party, she went through in 2016 and 2018,” former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told Page for the biography. Boehner, who was a target of much of the Tea Party’s ire, has made clear he’s no fan of the movement.
“I’ve watched it for a long time but yeah, she’s got her hands full,” Boehner continued.
Boehner also poked fun at the idea that these members have to some extent made Pelosi, a longtime San Francisco liberal, a centrist figure in the Democratic Party.
“Take one of the most liberals of the House from San Francisco and turn her into a moderate Democrat,” Boehner told Page, laughing. “That’s hilarious.”
Page’s book also outlines the hot-and-cold relationship between Pelosi and members of the Squad.
Pelosi, in an interview with Page, quoted former Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis., in mocking the Squad members for coming to Congress to pose for “holy pictures.”
“See how perfect I am and how pure,” Pelosi said mimicking a child’s voice, according to Page.
Pelosi also tore into Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, for a series of tweets he posted tearing into moderate Democrats and comparing them to the racist Southern Democrats of the mid-20th century.
“If you have something that you want to pass, you’re better off not having your chief of staff send out a tweet in the manner in which that was sent out. Totally inappropriate,” Pelosi told Page. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“You’re not a one-person show. This is the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi also said of the social media savvy Squad members.
But Pelosi also had positive moments with Squad members, Omar in particular. Omar and Tlaib were the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and Omar as part of her religious observance wears a hijab. There was previously a rule in the House that prevented members from wearing headgear on the floor.
Omar brought up the issue with Pelosi shortly after she won her Democratic primary, and Pelosi assured her that she would get the rule changed, according to Page. As Omar continued to be anxious about the rule in the coming months, Pelosi repeatedly called her – so often that Omar’s staffers would joke that “Auntie Nancy’s calling.”
Pelosi was “very gracious and extremely patient,” Omar told Page. The rule was eventually changed.