AOC’s ‘squad’ breaks with Pelosi, votes with GOP to block advancement of omnibus spending bill

In another sign of the swelling unrest within Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) House caucus, the four members of the progressive “squad” led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) symbolically voted against advancing the combined coronavirus relief and omnibus spending bills for a final vote on Monday, the Washington Examiner reported.

Given the slim majority House Democrats will hold in the next term, Pelosi — assuming she is re-elected to the speakership position — will have very few votes to spare in her bid to push through legislation that doesn’t enjoy broad bipartisan support.

The four-member “squad” joined by just a few others could conceivably cause major headaches for whoever is in charge of the House.

Procedural move opposed

The vote in question was a procedural move to advance the combined bills for final consideration, something that is typically done by party-line vote without much fanfare.

In this case, however, five Democratic members of the House broke with their leadership and joined Republicans to vote against the advancement of the bills. According to the Office of the Clerk for the House, those members were outgoing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI) and the four members of the squad — Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA), and Rashida Tlaib (MI).

The stated reason for their opposition to the procedural move was the failure of House leadership to abide by a rule requiring no less than 72 hours for review of the legislation that was about to be voted on. Members of the House were allowed only around four hours to try to skim through and review a combined bill that numbered more than 5,500 pages long.

No time to review

The Hill reported on the symbolic revolt of the progressive squad and noted that Ocasio-Cortez had no trouble explaining her thinking behind attempting to block the advancement of the combined COVID relief and omnibus spending package.

“This is why Congress needs time to actually read this package before voting on it. Members of Congress have not read this bill. It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours. This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking,” the New York congresswoman tweeted Monday.

Ocasio-Cortez also added that the 72-hour review period was not intended solely for members of Congress, but also so the public could have a chance to know what their elected representatives were about to vote on so they could express their own opposition or support for the measures in question.

Trouble for Pelosi

When the new Congress convenes in January, assuming Pelosi retains her speakership, the speaker could have a majority as slim as only six votes, meaning the four-member squad, with the addition of only a couple more Democrats, could stymie Pelosi and her agenda if their demands aren’t satisfied, the Examiner noted.

There are already two newly-elected members of the Democratic caucus who are expected to align themselves with the progressive squad — Representative-elects Corri Bush (MO) and Jamaal Bowman (NY), both of whom were supported by the “squad”–affiliated super PAC Justice Democrats, and both of whom will likely aim to hold Pelosi and other leaders accountable to their voter base.

Even though Bush has yet to be sworn into office, she already revealed that she would have joined the squad in voting against the advancement of the spending package. “I refuse to normalize an anti-democratic process where a few rich, predominantly white individuals negotiate behind closed doors for most of 2020 and give the rest of us a few hours to consider the 5,593 page result of their secret negotiations,” she tweeted.

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