Democratic lawmakers in the Congressional Black Caucus expressed anger over Justice Democrats attempting to oust black lawmakers in the primaries, saying the group's strategy is "a bunch of B.S."
Justice Democrats, a progressive group aligned with freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), is publicly backing primary challengers to several CBC members, including Reps. William Lacy Clay (Mo.) and Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.). Reps. Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Joyce Beatty (Ohio), Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.) have also expressed concerns about potentially being targeted in future weeks and months, according to the Hill.
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Rep. Gregory Meeks, a senior CBC member and Queens Democratic Party boss, told the Hill it "seems strange" that "social Democrats seem to be targeting members of the Congressional Black Caucus, individuals who have stood and fought to make sure that African Americans are included and part of this process."
"I don't know what that agenda is, but if they want to come after members of the Black Caucus, it's two ways," Meeks said.
Clay, who has represented his district since 2001, said it's "insulting" to the intelligence of voters in Missouri for Justice Democrats to target him.
"They are going after the wrong target. Instead of fighting Republicans and defeating Trump and holding on to our majority, they find it convenient to go after their own, which is to me a bunch of B.S.," Clay told the Hill. He compared Justice Democrats to "Russian trolls of 2016," saying they are sowing division in the Democratic Party.
Rep. Donald McEachin (Va.), another CBC member, was also frustrated by the Justice Democrats, saying the black lawmakers the group targets have some of the most progressive voting records in the caucus.
"I think challenging other Democrats in the primary when we're trying to hold on to the majority is wrong unless the person is so far out of bounds, so far away from Democratic orthodoxy, but that's not what's going on here," McEachin said.
Meeks has called for a meeting between CBC leaders and Justice Democrats to figure out why they are being targeted in the Democratic primaries.
"We have to find out who they are. Who is really running this show. We have to figure that out," Meeks said.
Alexandra Rojas, the executive director of Justice Democrats, pushed back against the CBC, noting they have endorsed several candidates of color.
"We are supporting a black woman who is a community organizer who has taken on police brutality in the St. Louis area," Rojas said. "Seventy percent of congressional districts in America have no competitive general election; primaries are often the only places where voters can have a real say."
"Barack Obama first ran for Congress in a primary challenge to Rep. Bobby Rush, a CBC member," Rojas added. "This is a democracy and voters deserve choices."
The friction between the CBC and Justice Democrats comes amid the tensions in the House Democratic Caucus. Earlier this week, Ocasio-Cortez accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) of singling out "newly elected women of color" during an interview with the Washington Post. Her comment responded to Pelosi's New York Times interview with Maureen Dowd, where she took a jab at Ocasio-Cortez and her "squad" of freshman progressive colleagues in the House.
"All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world," Pelosi said. "But they didn’t have any following. They're four people and that's how many votes they got."
"When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood," Ocasio-Cortez said. "But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color."