Merkley Blames Pelosi For House Passing Senate Version of Border Aid Bill

The House 'failed to carry its weight,' the Oregon Senator remarked

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) blamed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on Friday afternoon for the House of Representatives passing the Senate's version of a border aid package without going to a conference between the two chambers of Congress.

"Whose fault was it that it didn't go to conference?" the Huffington Post‘s Amanda Terkel asked Merkley at the Netroots Nation conference on Friday. "Is it Speaker Pelosi, is it the moderates in the House? What happened there?"

"So I'm observing from a distance, not being a member of the House. But the complete assumption on the Senate side was that Speaker Pelosi would take it to conference and she didn't," Merkley said, drawing ‘oohs' from the audience. "She is the leadership so that's where the responsibility rests."

Prior to being asked about Pelosi, Merkley explained how Sen. Pat Leahy (D., Vt.) tried working with Republicans on the bill.

"In the Senate, we tried to get some protections in and Pat Leahy, the head of the spending committee, appropriations committee, did the best he could with the Republicans in control, but the whole conversation all along was the House will do better and we'll go to conference and we will win a number of those features," Merkley said.

He continued by saying that by not going to conference, the House cost the Democrats "all the leverage that the progressives like congresswoman [Pramila] Jayapal had worked so hard to get, it just went down the tube."

"We cannot let that happen," Merkley continued. "The House has to carry its weight to restore the values of America. It failed on this occasion."

Terkel asked Merkley if Pelosi would have been in a stronger position if so many Democratic senators had not voted for the bill.

"So I think it's a fair point. Perhaps. But the product of the Senate is a Republican-led product, not a Democratic-led product, so I wouldn't put too much emphasis on that side of the coin," Merkley said.

Ben Jacobs first reported on the comments.

Pelosi has faced criticism within the House Democratic caucus this week after the House passed the Senate version of a $4.6 billion border aid package. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) accused the Speaker of singling out women of color newly elected to the House. Her comments came after Pelosi hammered Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) in an interview with the New York Times.