On Wednesday, Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives offered up a bill that would fund the government and end the shutdown. The bill passed with the support of ten Republican Members and every Democrat in the House-except one.
According to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, she opposed the effort to reopen the government because it contained funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Speaking to The New York Post, Ocasio-Cortez said, “We were having conversations with our community after we voted for DHS [Department of Homeland Security] funding the first time. We’re hearing back a lot from our local community and they’re uncomfortable with any vote on funding for ICE.”
I daresay that those in the community expressing their discomfort with a vote for funding ICE are not among the thousands of their neighbors who are furloughed federal employees standing in soup lines in New York City, including in AOC’s own congressional district, or fending off their landlords who want the rent money.
I applaud Ocasio-Cortez for voting her conscious as most would agree that we could use a lot more of that in the United States Congress.
I very much regret that, to make her point, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez chose this moment to turn her back on the ten thousand federal employees in New York, and their families, who are struggling mightily to afford the most basic of needs as they navigate the extraordinary difficulties of life without a paycheck.
We can all likely agree that the House vote to reopen government was little more than a symbolic gesture as there is little to no chance that the United States Senate will take up the bill.
Therefore, it can be reasonably argued that Ocasio-Cortez was casting a symbolic vote against ICE that she knew would not scuttle a genuine opportunity to re-open government.
Yet, when thousands of one’s constituents are truly suffering; when FBI investigations against potential terror threats are falling behind due to lack of funding; and when we are being told that flying may be catastrophically less safe as a result of air traffic controllers working for over a month without getting paid, it is somewhat revealing that the Congresswoman chose to cast a vote-though symbolic it may be-against a federal agency that is most certainly not going away rather than cast a vote in support of her fellow New Yorkers in immediate need.
I agree with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez that there must be a serious conversation about how ICE operates and whether or not they are engaged in practices that violate basic human dignity and worse.
However, serving one’s constituents in the House of Representatives is often a matter of choices and priorities. As AOC herself pointed out in explaining her vote, “Most of our votes are pretty straightforward, but today was a tough/nuanced call.”
In this instance, and with this vote, the Congresswoman’s priority needed to be those who are in true economic peril right now rather than using the opportunity to garner more of the attention that is inevitable when one is the lone Democrat opposing reopening the government-even if that attention was in service to raising an important issue in need of review.
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