Nancy Pelosi dismisses AOC's progressive wing of Democrats as 'like, five people'

Adam Forrest

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dismissed the influence of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her party, describing the socialist wing of Democrats in the House of Representatives as “like, five people”.

Ms Pelosi has previously rejected the rising star’s policy proposals – including the Green New Deal plan to tackle climate change and the expansion of Medicare for all Americans.

In a new interview, the speaker of the House insisted there was only a very small group of left-wing Democrats who subscribed to Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas.

Asked by 60 Minutes interviewer Lesley Stahl about “AOC and her group”, Ms Pelosi replied: “That’s, like, five people.”

When Ms Stahl suggested “the progressive group is more than five,” the California Democrat was careful not to give up on the broad label she applied to a large swathe of the House caucus. “Well, the progressive ... I’m a progressive,” she said.

The 79-year-old, who began her second speakership in January following the Democrats’ victory at the midterms, maintained that her party was not divided between radicals and moderates.

“By and large, whatever orientation they came to Congress with, they know that we have to hold the centre,” she said. “That we have to … go down the mainstream.”

She also addressed the idea of improving upon President Obama’s Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicare, a plan supported by Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and other left-wing Democrats.

“Well [the] Affordable Care Act is better than Medicare, there’s no question about that. The Affordable Care Act benefits are better. Medicare doesn’t have a catastrophic plan. So if you want Medicare for all, you’re going to have to change Medicare and let’s take a look at that.”

Ms Pelosi met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday at the beginning of her trip to the UK and Republic of Ireland. She said she had a “candid” discussion with the opposition leader about Brexit and antisemitism, among other subjects.

The powerful Democrat has previously made subtle criticisms about politicians who depend on social media for public support. Ms Ocasio-Cortez, incidentally, has almost four million followers on Twitter.

“While there are people who have a large number of Twitter followers, what’s important is that we have large numbers of votes on the floor of the House,” Ms Pelosi said last week.

In a February interview, the speaker of the House brushed off the idea of picking up Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Ms Pelosi said. “The green dream, or whatever they call it – nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”