In a now-deleted tweet, the first-term congresswoman’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, compared two of the party’s most moderate caucuses to the Southern Democrats, who favored segregation and vehemently opposed civil rights.
“Instead of ‘fiscally conservative but socially liberal,’ let’s call the New Democrats and Blue Dog Caucus the ‘New Southern Democrats,’ ” he wrote. “They certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”
Chakrabarti deleted the post, saying he hadn’t intended to personally insult anyone, but reiterated his argument in two subsequent tweets.
“You can be someone who does not personally harbor ill will towards a race, but through your actions still enable a racist system,” he said. “And a lot of New Democrats and Blue Dogs did that today . . . Southern Democrats enabled a racist system too. I have no idea how personally racist they all were. And we’re seeing the same dynamic play out now.”
The measure would send billions of dollars to agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, that have been overwhelmed by an influx of Central American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Many Democrats opposed the idea of pumping more money into departments they said would just carry out President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda. But those who supported the move argued that without action, the agency responsible for looking after unaccompanied children would run out of money and conditions for minors in U.S. custody could worsen.
The tensions flared Thursday morning, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tried to garner support for a version of the spending bill that contained additional protections for unaccompanied minors and restrictions on how the Trump administration could use the funds.
As expected, Republicans opposed that proposal, but Pelosi also ran into trouble within her own ranks. A group of moderate Democrats pressured Pelosi to back away from her proposed changes, saying they didn’t want to get mired in a conflict with the Republican-controlled Senate and be forced to wait until after the week-long Fourth of July recess to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.
The unrevised bill passed 305 to 102, with 129 Democrats supporting it and 95 Democrats opposing it. Because the Senate passed it earlier this week, the legislation now goes to Trump, who is expected to sign it.
“As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a battle cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth,” Pelosi said in a letter to her colleagues.
But Ocasio-Cortez criticized Democratic leaders for what she characterized as a capitulation. “We didn’t even bother to negotiate,” she said in an interview with CNN after the vote. “Instead what we’re doing is we’re immediately going to just saying yes to what got passed out of the Senate . . . We are a House majority, and we need to act like it.”
Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade contributed to this report.