The progressive firebrand said it’s time for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to go — but warned of a power vacuum that could be filled by “nefarious forces” who are “even more conservative” than the caucuses’ current leaders during a podcast interview on “The Intercept” that aired Thursday.
“I do think we need new leadership in the Democratic Party,” Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said. “I think one of the things that I have struggled with, I think that a lot of people struggle with, is the internal dynamics of the House has made it such that there [are] very little options for succession.”
Pelosi, 80, sailed to reelection as speaker in a virtual caucus vote last month despite a spate of Democratic losses in the 2020 election, a night in which the party expected to see big wins but instead suffered some surprising defeats. While she did not face any challenges, Pelosi will need to secure a simple majority – 218 Democratic votes – by the full House of Representatives in order to maintain her gavel.
With one of the thinnest majorities in decades, Pelosi can only afford to lose a handful of Democratic votes or risk losing the contest.
Other top Democratic leaders in the House, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn, who have held those positions for more than a decade, ran unopposed and were approved by the caucus to serve in those roles next year.
On the Senate side, Schumer also cruised to reelection without facing any in-party challenges.
But even with Pelosi indicating this upcoming term could be her last, Ocasio-Cortez said there are no viable solutions to replace her because the party’s current leaders have concentrated power in leadership “with a lack of real grooming on next generation of leadership.”
“My concern — and I acknowledge this as a failing, as something that we need to sort out — is that there isn’t a plan,” she said. “How do we fill that vacuum? Because if you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse. And so, the actual sad state of affairs is that there are folks more conservative than even they are willing to kind of fill that void.”
The lack of leadership opportunities, she said, ultimately pushes talented newcomers to leave Capitol Hill or to run for statewide office instead.
“The answer is we need to shift power,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We need to make sure that we have a transition of power in the Democratic Party.”
The New York congresswoman, who handily won reelection in November despite a well-funded attempt to unseat her, rejected the possibility of running for the position anytime soon.
“The House is extraordinarily complex and I’m not ready,” she said. “It can’t be me. I know that I couldn’t do that job.”