A day after the House overwhelmingly approved funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) penned an emotional and lengthy open letter to her constituents apologizing for effectively abstaining in a vote over funding.
With tears streaming down her cheeks after the vote, Ocasio-Cortez used her letter to attack the bill’s content as well the way it was passed, calling the process “reckless” and “rushed.” In her letter, she said she was against “unconditional aid to the Israeli government,” but she ultimately changed her vote from “no” to “present,” which means a member takes no position for or against but records their presence.
The fact that she chose to effectively abstain from voting enraged some liberals.
“Normally I find AOC a person with moral values … This time though, as a few other times, I must say she should’ve stuck with other “Squad” members,” wrote one person on Twitter. Another said, “AOC primes people to believe she will never compromise, then does.” Meanwhile, an opinion piece accused her vote of being “a tactical mess” and a “worst-of-both-worlds solution,” and suggested that it indicated she could have higher political ambitions.
Describing her actions in her letter, Ocasio-Cortez wrote: “Yes, I wept. I wept at the complete lack of care for the human beings that are impacted by these decisions, I wept at an institution choosing a path of maximum volatility and minimum consideration for its own political convenience.”
She added: “To those I have disappointed — I am deeply sorry. To those who believe this reasoning is insufficient or cowardice — I understand.”
She was not explicit about the reasons for her change of heart but hinted at a lack of time for substantive community consultation, as well as “hateful targeting” and the creation of an atmospheric “tinderbox of vitriol.”
AOC Tears on the House floor after the House passed a $1 billion funding for Israel's Iron Dome pic.twitter.com/pMcMxqQWFG— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) September 23, 2021
In the original government spending plan, $1 billion was allocated to the Iron Dome system, which is designed to counter short-range rockets and mortars fired by Gaza insurgents. The spending package could be thrown off course if enough liberals vote against it.
As a result, Democratic leaders chose to remove the Israel funding provision and pass it as a separate bill, which was approved on Thursday. The procedural manoeuvre, on the other hand, sparked outrage among Democrats, with Ocasio-Cortez calling the process “deeply unjust.”
The debate over Iron Dome funding is the latest issue to pit members of the so-called Squad, a group of liberal lawmakers, against establishment Democrats within the Democratic Party caucus.
Ocasio-Cortez, a high-profile member of the Squad, is frequently a lightning rod for conservative criticism; however, her abstention saw her break away from fellow members such as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) all voted against the bill.
Interparty tensions erupted during the vote, as Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress, called Israel an “apartheid state,” prompting Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.) to accuse her of antisemitism.
In the midst of the brawl, Republicans were eager to portray the entire Democratic Party as anti-Israel.
“Democrats do NOT support Israel,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 3 in House GOP leadership, wrote on Twitter. “Instead they choose to side with the Hamas Caucus wing of their Party.”
But House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement that the United States’ “commitment to the security of our friend and ally Israel is ironclad.”
The House voted for the measure 420 to 9.
The decision was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who thanked “Democrats and Republicans alike, for the overwhelming support for Israel and for the commitment to its security.”
The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration before it can be signed into law.
Image Credit: Getty