Pelosi Has Lost Control of the Democratic Party to AOC and the 'Lunatic' Left, Scalise Says

Republican Representative Steve Scalise has claimed that congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her allies have effectively seized control of the Democratic Party, pushing the caucus into radical positions that make it unrecognizable.

Speaking on Fox News on Thursday, Scalise suggested that House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi has lost control of the Democrats, ceding influence to the leftist faction that was buoyed by the party's 2018 midterm election victory.

This, he claimed, was the driver between Pelosi's decision to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez was among last year's intake, and since unseating former House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, the 30-year-old has become one of the most prominent progressive voices within the party. Though still in her first term, Ocasio-Cortez has been tipped as a future party leader.

Asked why Pelosi decided to begin the impeachment of Trump, Scalise said Thursday, "The AOC wing of the party changed and really started controlling her caucus."

Pelosi was initially hesitant about impeaching the president, suggesting she would only begin proceedings in the face of overwhelming evidence and bipartisan support. But the scandal over the president's dealings with Ukraine prompted the speaker to file impeachment articles without Republican support.

"It's no longer Nancy Pelosi calling the shots and I think that anybody who follows the things that she's been forced into doing, it's been mostly that far left socialist wing of the party," he added.

Ocasio-Cortez and her allies have clashed with Pelosi over Democratic policy, though the speaker has been able to avoid the kind of profound party split or progressive coup that some observers had predicted.

Nonetheless, the left-wingers within the party have helped shift the policy conversation in some areas, moving the Democrats away from the center ground on issues like health care, climate change and wealth redistribution.

"And it's not just Pelosi—you see AOC shaping the presidential debates," Scalise continued, citing areas "like the green deal and some of the other lunatic policies."

He added, "They are pushing the presidential candidates so far to the socialist left that you can't even recognize them," Scalise claimed.

The congressman said the candidates are "kowtowing to that most radical element of their base instead of focusing on the bread and butter issues—the things that got them the majority."

Now, he claimed, the Democrats are focused on "their own power and their hatred against the president."

The most ambitious leftist policies among the Democratic presidential hopefuls have come from candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, both of whom were working on the Hill long before Ocasio-Cortez came to prominence.

Ocasio-Cortez worked for Sanders as an organizer in his 2016 re-election campaign and has cited the Vermont senator as an important political influence. Ocasio-Cortez has officially endorsed Sanders for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

For all the support for figures like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, more radical presidential candidates are still battling to overhaul former Vice President Joe Biden, who represents the centrist sentiment within the party—as does South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Scalise—along with many other Republican lawmakers—has previously claimed that the rise of figures like Ocasio-Cortez prove there are "no moderates left" in the Democratic Party. "It's, literally, liberals versus socialists and the socialists are winning," he said earlier this year.

The Louisiana congressman has also attacked Ocasio-Cortez for proposing tax increases, claiming she and her allies want to take more money from Americans to spend on "leftist fantasy programs."

In response, Ocasio-Cortez suggested Scalise did not understand how marginal tax rates work. She added, "Oh that's right, almost forgot: GOP works for the corporate CEOs showering themselves in multi-million [dollar] bonuses; not the actual working people whose wages + healthcare they're ripping off for profit."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrats, Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on December 21, 2019. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images/Getty