The rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019

The rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019
© Greg Nash

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOil price drop threatens US fracking boom Trump faces race against clock to get coronavirus relief out the door Will coronavirus launch the second wave of socialism? MORE (D-N.Y.) arrived in the nation’s capital in January, quickly advocating for the progressive policy promises that propelled her to stardom on the left.

In her first full year in office, Ocasio-Cortez has introduced major proposals to spearhead change on climate, labor and housing issues. But the freshman lawmaker has proven herself more than a wonk in her time in Washington. After defeating former 10-time incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) last year in the primary, she’s remained a force among even the most prominent Washington figures. 

Ocasio-Cortez has gone head-to-head with top leaders inside the Beltway and served as a linchpin endorsement for others. From the Green New Deal to her now-viral questioning of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDefense industrial base workers belong at home during this public health crisis Maduro pushes back on DOJ charges, calls Trump 'racist cowboy' House leaders hope to vote Friday on coronavirus stimulus MORE’s former attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenJudge rejects Michael Cohen's plea for early prison release amid coronavirus Michael Cohen cites 'absence of presidential leadership' over coronavirus in effort to move to home confinement Free Roger Stone MORE, The Hill breaks down Ocasio-Cortez’s first year as a lawmaker: 

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Introducing the Green New Deal:

The Green New Deal was originally popularized by the youth climate activist group the Sunrise Movement, although the proposal has become synonymous with Ocasio-Cortez. After arriving at freshman orientation for newly elected members of Congress in 2018, Ocasio-Cortez joined the group’s protest calling for the plan outside of House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAn insecure America and an assertive China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - House to pass relief bill; Trump moves to get US back to work Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —US now leads world in known coronavirus cases | Unemployment claims soar by over 3 million | House to vote on stimulus Friday | Ventilator shortage sets off scramble MORE's (D-Calif.) office. 

At the time, Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter, the platform where she has amassed more than 6 million followers and regularly addresses constituents and supporters. She shared, “This morning 100s of young people came together to ask us as elected officials to act urgently to draft a Green New Deal that gets us to 100% renewable energy ASAP. They asked me to join them, and I did. We can embrace the energy of activism to move our party’s goals forward.”

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After she was sworn into office at the beginning of the year, Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution titled “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal,” which has a stated goal of creating millions of “good high-wage jobs” with a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. 

It calls for a slate of environmental initiatives, including updating “smart” power grids, supporting family farming, guaranteeing universal access to clean drinking water and investments in high-speed railroads.

The initiative suffered a defeat in March after the Senate voted to block the Green New Deal resolution introduced in the upper chamber by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Twitter says Chinese official's virus disinformation doesn't violate rules | Hackers target WHO | Senators urge agencies to stop coronavirus robocalls Senators urge FCC, DOJ to combat coronavirus robocalls Democrats fume over GOP coronavirus bill: 'Totally inadequate' MORE (D-Mass.). The body voted 0-57 on taking up the resolution, with 43 Democrats voting present. 

But in July, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men Harris knocks Gaetz for taking issue with money for Howard in relief package Biden's general election strategy comes into focus MORE (D-Calif.) unveiled legislation that could serve as the first move toward implementing the Green New Deal across the country. The bill, dubbed the Climate Equity Act, would require the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to evaluate how new environmental bills could impact low-income communities. 

It would also create a new federal office to represent the views of communities most affected by climate change, according to a statement from Ocasio-Cortez at the time.

Additionally, in November, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - House to pass relief bill; Trump moves to get US back to work Oil price drop threatens US fracking boom Democratic fears rise again as coronavirus pushes Biden to sidelines MORE (I-Vt.) announced a “Green New Deal for Housing,” a $180 billion plan that seeks to repair and retrofit public housing units with a goal of eliminating all carbon emissions

Since its official introduction, the Green New Deal in its many forms has made waves among other top politicians in Washington. 

Trump went after Ocasio-Cortez’s signature legislation earlier this year, calling it “preposterous” and saying it will be “easy to beat” in a March interview with Fox Business. But the landmark climate legislation has been adopted by most of the top-tier Democratic 2020 presidential candidates, according to NPR.  

Endorsing Sen. Sanders in the 2020 Democratic Primary:  

Ocasio-Cortez threw her support behind Sanders in October among the crowded slate of 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls.

The freshman lawmaker told supporters that Sanders inspired her own decision to enter progressive politics.

“It wasn’t until I heard of a man by the name of Bernie Sanders that I began to question and assert and recognize my inherent value as a human being that deserves health care, housing, education and a living wage,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the time.

She also credited him with inspiring her to launch a primary bid against longtime Democratic lawmaker Crowley, saying “I’m proud to say the only reason I had any hope in launching a long-shot campaign for Congress is because Bernie Sanders proved you can run a grassroots campaign and win in an America where we almost thought it was impossible.”

Ocasio-Cortez was joined in her endorsement by two fellow members of “the squad,” the nickname that developed last year to describe the progressive group of four congresswomen made up of Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPressley experiencing flu-like symptoms, being tested for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill Pressley, Tlaib introduce bill providing .5B in emergency grants for the homeless MORE (D-Mass.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarUndocumented aliens should stay away as COVID-19 rages in the US The Southern Poverty Law Center and yesterday's wars Rush, Trish and left-leaning media: Is it opinion or news reporting? MORE (D-Minn.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi Tlaib20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Pressley, Tlaib introduce bill providing .5B in emergency grants for the homeless Detroit officials halt water shutoffs over coronavirus outbreak concerns MORE (D-Mich.).

Pressley was the only lawmaker in the group to instead endorse Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men HuffPost reporter: Coronavirus rescue package designed for 'super rich' Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break MORE (D-Mass.), which Ocasio-Cortez later responded to with a heart emoji on Twitter. 

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Going head-to-head with Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

Ocasio-Cortez didn’t shy away from spats with lawmakers on her side of the aisle in 2019, butting heads with Pelosi over immigration policy in a weeks-long controversy this summer. 

Ocasio-Cortez and the fellow members of the squad split with Pelosi after she accepted a Senate version of a border bill that excluded specific protections for migrants in detention. After the vote, Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, who departed her office this year, tweeted accusing the centrist members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat Coalitions of being racist. 

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Pelosi then hit back, responding in a rare closed-door meeting where she told Democratic lawmakers “You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it.”

"But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK,” Pelosi added.

Just hours later, Ocasio-Cortez accused Pelosi of the "explicit singling out of newly elected women of color” in an interview with The Washington Post, although she later denied that she believed the Speaker is “racist."

Pelosi responded in an interview with The New York Times, saying that the squad has “their public whatever and their Twitter world,” and that “They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

But by the end of July, the House Speaker and Ocasio-Cortez held a 30-minute huddle in the Capitol, where the lawmakers reportedly spoke about "an array of issues" related to Ocasio-Cortez's position on the Financial Services and the Oversight and Reform committees. Pelosi shared a photo of the two after the meeting, saying that they “sat down to discuss working together to meet the needs of our districts, fairness in our economy and diversity in our country.”

Responding to President Trump’s attacks:

Amid the conflict with Pelosi, Trump lashed out at the squad in a set of controversial tweets that sparked immediate backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. 

“So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," Trump tweeted. "Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

All of the members of the squad were born in the U.S. except for Omar, and the president’s critics quickly condemned the series of tweets as racist.

Ocasio-Cortez slammed Trump over the tweets and criticized the migrant detention centers along the southern border.

“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet.”

Just days after Trump shared the tweets, House Democrats introduced a resolution condemning the move, which passed in a 240-187 vote. Four GOP lawmakers challenged their party and voted for the resolution — Reps. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksThe rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 Hispanic Democrats endorse Latina for open Indiana seat Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks MORE (Ind.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' This week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill House approves pro-union labor bill MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 MORE (Texas) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops House passes measure limiting Trump's ability to take military action against Iran House passes .3 billion measure to fight coronavirus MORE (Mich.). 

Grilling Michael Cohen:  

Ocasio-Cortez also went viral this year over her questioning of Trump’s former attorney, Cohen. 

Cohen publicly testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February. He was sentenced to prison last year after pleading guilty to financial crimes and campaign finance violations, and he is currently serving a three-year term. 

But Ocasio-Cortez’s line of questioning during his testimony quickly led to Trump’s finances and tax returns. As Ocasio-Cortez zeroed in on the president’s financial information, Cohen alleged that Trump has previously lied about the worth of his assets.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly retorted, “Where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?"

“Yes, and you'd find it at the Trump Org," Cohen replied. Her questions also prompted Cohen to claim that Trump lowered his local real estate tax bills.

Trump has long refused to release his complete previous tax returns, and House Democrats have launched a months-long lawsuit to obtain the financial information from New York state officials.

But the lawmaker later revealed that she didn’t rely on newly acquired skills as a lawmaker during the questioning. Ocasio-Cortez, who worked as a bartender before her congressional bid, tweeted after the testimony that her former gig had taught her important lessons.

“Bartending + waitressing (especially in NYC) means you talk to 1000s of people over the years. Forces you to get great at reading people + hones a razor-sharp BS detector. Just goes to show that what some consider to be 'unskilled labor' can actually be anything but,” she tweeted.