WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some U.S. House of Representatives Democrats on Thursday blamed Tuesday’s election losses on colleagues who embraced defunding police departments and “socialist” policies, according to sources familiar with a phone call they held.
Democrats went into this week’s congressional elections, in which all 435 House seats were up for grabs, with high hopes of significantly building on their majority control of the chamber.
Instead, in a jolt that has cast a pall over the party even as Democrat Joe Biden was close to toppling President Donald Trump, the party suffered the net loss of about a half-dozen House seats.
Democrats are expected to nonetheless hold onto their majority in the new Congress that convenes on Jan. 3.
According to a source who was on Wednesday’s phone call, Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger criticized some of her fellow Democrats for support of defunding police departments after a string of deaths of Black people during arrests or shootings by law enforcement personnel. Spanberger did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Spanberger, a former CIA analyst, was narrowly leading a Republican opponent in her bid for a second term representing a formerly Republican stronghold district in Virginia.
The same source said that several Democrats during the call also voiced anger over liberal members embracing socialism and echoed the idea that this caused election losses.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents a liberal New York City district, has been aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America.
In April, as the U.S. economy was sinking under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “When late-stage capitalism takes a selfie.” The tweet included a screenshot of a news broadcast reporting that more than 16 million Americans had lost jobs within three weeks.
Throughout this election year, Republicans have accused Democrats of advocating extreme left-wing policies with calls for comprehensive legislation to address climate change, expand healthcare to all Americans and reform U.S. immigration laws.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top-elected U.S. Republican, for example, in July blasted Democrats’ demand for more than $3 trillion in new coronavirus aid as “go-nowhere socialist fantasies.”
WINNING THE WAR
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in remarks to her caucus, said this year’s election “has been a life or death fight for the very fate of our democracy. We did not win every battle but we did win the war.” She added that with Trump on the ballot, Democrats faced a tougher battle than in 2018 when Democrats gained a whopping 40 seats to wrest the majority from the Republicans.
The 2020 election losses have led a couple House moderates to foment talk of a challenge to Pelosi’s re-election as speaker in January, according to The Hill newspaper, which mentioned Representative Hakeem Jeffries as a possible challenger.
A Jeffries spokeswoman told Reuters party unity was paramount and said he will run for re-election as head of the Democratic caucus and not the speakership.
Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Cynthia Osterman
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