Pelosi calls AOC's progressive wing 'like, five people'

Speaker says Dems must 'hold the center'

By Caroline Kelly, CNN
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), takes part in a ceremonial mock swearing in ceremony with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on January 3, 2019, in Washington, DC.

(CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterized the more progressive wing of House Democrats led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, as "like, five people" that do not represent all progressives, including herself -- adding that freshmen Democrats "know that we have to hold the center."

Pelosi's comments minimizing the influence of Ocasio-Cortez and other House progressives builds on her previous downplaying of their policy proposals, such as her criticism of Medicare-for-all and hesitation to endorse the Green New Deal.

During an interview that aired Sunday on "60 Minutes," CBS's Lesley Stahl began a question to Pelosi, saying, "You have these wings -- AOC, and her group on one side--"

"That's, like, five people," Pelosi replied.

Stahl said that "the progressive group is more than five," to which Pelosi responded, "Well, the progressive -- I'm a progressive. Yeah."

Stahl pointed to some progressives' support for replacing the Affordable Care Act with Medicare-for-all, a policy backed by some 2020 Democrats that, in some proposals, would eliminate private insurance.

"Well, Affordable Care Act is better than Medicare, there's no question about that," Pelosi said. "The Affordable Care Act benefits are better. Medicare doesn't have a catastrophic plan. So if you want Medicare for all, you're gonna have to change Medicare and let's take a look at that."

Ocasio-Cortez's office declined to comment to CNN about Pelosi's remark.

In another part of the interview with Stahl on whether she could unite the party's factions, Pelosi said that "by and large, whatever orientation they came to Congress with, they know that we have to hold the center. That we have to be, go down the mainstream."

Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez have had a varying relationship since the Bronx congresswoman was elected last November. Ocasio-Cortez backed Pelosi for speaker, and the two lined-up on the same side last month of an intra-caucus debate over a Republican amendment tucked into a gun control bill that would alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement of undocumented immigrants' attempts to purchase firearms.

The two also posed for pictures together when the hosts of Netflix reality makeover show Queer Eye came to Capitol Hill earlier this month, with Pelosi telling the group, "feel free to let us know when you want @RepAOC & me to fill in next."

But Pelosi has also taken several thinly-veiled jabs at Ocasio-Cortez -- and her strong social media following of more than 9.3 million 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," Pelosi told USA Today earlier this month.

The speaker has also been dismissive of Ocasio-Cortez's legislation combating climate change, the Green New Deal.

"It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they're for it, right?" Pelosi told Politico.

This story has been updated to reflect a response from Ocasio-Cortez's office.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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