Dem leaders defend House campaign arm after attacks from Ocasio-Cortez and allies

House Democratic leaders on Tuesday defended their campaign arm in the face of complaints from freshmen like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, maintaining that the group's big-picture goal is to “protect and preserve” the party's majority in the House.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the House Democratic Caucus Chair, was responding to criticism of a move by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to blacklist political firms that work with primary challengers to sitting members of Congress. Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, both of whom scored primary upsets last year, blasted the decision.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS' CAMPAIGN ARM WARNS CONSULTANTS AGAINST HELPING PRIMARY CHALLENGERS

Jeffries downplayed the rift during a press conference Tuesday, suggesting the leadership would hear everybody out but reiterating the mission statement of the DCCC itself.

“We are in the middle of ongoing conversations because we embrace different positions,” Jeffries said. “But at the end of the day, the single mission of the DCCC is to protect and preserve the majority.”

Jeffries added: “The core mission of the DCCC is to make sure House Democrats remain in the majority.”

Jeffries' comments come after both Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley blasted the DCCC policy over the weekend, with Ocasio-Cortez even urging a pause in all donations to the DCCC and encouraging donors to give directly to “swing candidates” themselves.

Their fight has, in turn, been promoted and cheered by allies on the left, including Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., the vice chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Arguing that the DCCC policy “stifles competition and blackballs any consultant who works for a challenger,” Khanna complained in comments to The Intercept that the DCCC policy was “heavy-handed.”

“This unprecedented grab of power is a slap in the face of Democratic voters across the nation,” Khanna said. “Let’s be clear. If this policy remains in place, it will mean that we will not allow new Ayanna Pressleys or AOCs to emerge. It’s simply wrong.”

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, argued on Tuesday that her party’s attention should not be focused on dealing with outside political groups, but on making sure that Democratic votes are counted and the party’s initiatives are fulfilled.

“The focus of the caucus is not political consultants, it’s to protect the vote,” she said.

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The DCCC has previously stated in a letter that its core mission is keeping the party's newly won majority in the House by “electing House Democrats, which includes supporting and protecting incumbents.”

The letter then clearly states that the committee “will not conduct business with, nor recommend to any of its targeted campaigns, any consultant that works with an opponent of a sitting Member of the House Democratic Caucus."

Fox News’ Judson Berger and Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.