Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argued in a new interview that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer should no longer lead Democrats in Congress, and complained that the party had failed at grooming a “next generation” of younger lawmakers to succeed them.
“I do think that we need new leadership in the Democratic Party,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told The Intercept in an interview published Wednesday. Spokespeople for Pelosi and Schumer did not immediately return an email seeking comment on Ocasio-Cortez’s interview.
The remarks from the freshman congresswoman and superstar of the party’s left wing represented her most direct attack yet on Pelosi and Schumer, and come as Democrats are locked in a fierce debate over their broader message following a disappointing showing in 2020 congressional races across the country.
Schumer, who is 70 years old, was reelected as leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus last month, and Pelosi is positioned to be reelected as speaker in January — all but ensuring the House Democratic Caucus will continue to be governed by the same octogenarian triumvirate that has occupied the party’s top three leadership roles for the past 14 years: the 80-year-old Pelosi, 81-year-old House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and 80-year-old House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
Pelosi has indicated her next term as speaker will be her last, but Ocasio-Cortez observed in the interview that even the party’s more moderate members have found it difficult to produce “viable alternatives” to challenge her leadership. “I think one of the things that I have struggled with — I think that a lot of people struggle with — is [that] the internal dynamics of the House has made it such that there’s very little option for succession, if you will,” she said.
But Ocasio-Cortez also offered criticism of progressives, noting that “the left isn’t really making a plan” ahead of Pelosi’s potential retirement, and warning that “there are folks more conservative than even” Pelosi and Schumer who are “willing to kind of fill that void” in leadership.
“The hesitancy that I have is that I want to make sure that if we’re pointing people in a direction, that we have a plan. And my concern — and this I acknowledge as a failing, as something that we need to sort out — is that there isn’t a plan,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “How do we fill that vacuum? Because if you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse.”