House

Ocasio-Cortez explains 'present' vote on Iron Dome

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) explained on Friday why she voted "present" on legislation that would provide $1 billion to support Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.

In a note addressed to "our NY-14 community," Ocasio-Cortez said that even though she cast a "present" vote, "I am opposed to this bill."

The House passed the standalone bill on a bipartisan 420-9 vote on Thursday, with the New York Democrat being one of two lawmakers in her party who voted "present."

Thursday's vote came after Democrats stripped the funding for the defense system from a stopgap bill that would prevent a government shutdown due to objections from progressives.

In her note, the New York Democrat explained that voting "present" would not defund the U.S.'s financing of the Iron Dome. She noted that the U.S. has provided $1.7 billion in funding for the system since 2011 and has already committed to funding the bill through 2028.

But Ocasio-Cortez criticized the "reckless" decision by House leadership to rush Thursday's vote on the separate funding for Israel. She explained that, "a funding leap this significant in a policy area that is already so charged and fraught for many communities" deserved proper due process. 

Ocasio-Cortez said that as it became clear that the discourse around the bill devolved into "hateful targeting," she asked for a 24-hour stay of the vote, which was denied. 

"The damage of this careless process created very real spillover effects into our community," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. She added that it "created a real sense of panic and horror among those in our community who otherwise engage thoughtfully in these discussions."

Ocasio-Cortez said that she wept during the vote, saying that she did so for the "complete lack of care for the human beings that are impacted by these decisions."

"I hope we can take this moment and opportunity to more deeply engage in and grow a true, substantive movement of community support for human rights around the world - which includes cherishing and respecting the human rights of Palestinian people," she continued.

Tensions between some members of the House ran high during the debate portion of the low chamber's proceedings on Thursday. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who with Ocasio-Cortez is considered a member of the progressive "squad," urged Congress to vote against the funding. 

"We cannot be talking only about Israelis' need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system," Tlaib said, calling the Israeli government "an apartheid regime."

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who is Jewish, blasted Tliab over her remarks and accused her of having "besmirched our ally." 

"I cannot, I cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic state of Israel an apartheid state. I reject it," Deutch said. 

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