- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rebuked President Donald Trump over the government shutdown in her first speech on the House floor on Wednesday.
- She said the shutdown was not about Trump’s demands for a border wall but “the erosion of American democracy.”
- Ocasio-Cortez told the story of a federal air-traffic controller in her constituency, who she said was dealing with children, a mortgage, and a stressful job while not getting paid during the shutdown.
- “It is not normal to hold 800,000 workers’ paychecks hostage,” she said. “It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used her first speech on the House floor on Wednesday to rip President Donald Trump over the ongoing partial government shutdown, saying the closure was not about a wall along the US-Mexico border but “the erosion of American democracy.”
Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat representing the Bronx and Queens in New York, said that the shutdown, now into a record fourth week, is “not about a wall.”
“It is not about the border. And it is certainly not about the well-being of everyday Americans,” she said. “The truth is this shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.
“It is not normal to hold 800,000 workers’ paychecks hostage,” she continued. “It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want.”
She added: “And it is certainly not normal to starve the people we serve for a proposal that is wildly unpopular among the American people.”
Ocasio-Cortez explained how the shutdown was affecting one of her constituents, an air-traffic controller at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport surnamed Obed, who came to the US from Yemen when he was 8 years old.
Air-traffic controllers are among those working without pay during the shutdown, which Trump has said could last for months or “years,” though such workers are likely to be paid after it ends.
“Every single day, air-traffic controllers have thousands of people’s lives in their hands,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “With weather changes, flight delays, staffing complexities, and a myriad of other issues, their days almost never go exactly to plan.”
She added: “And it is terrifying to think that almost every single air-traffic controller in the United States is currently distracted at work because they don’t know when their next paycheck is coming.”
She said of her constituent: “His childhood dream was to become a pilot, and he knew and felt that in the United States all things are possible and his dream could come true. Mr. Obed’s dream did come true.”
But he is now stressed as he pays his mortgage and supports his two children, she said.
“Federal workers’ jobs are stressful enough. The rise in New York City’s cost of living is stressful enough,” she said, adding: “His several-thousand-dollar-a-month Bronx mortgage is stressful enough. The anti-immigrant sentiment of this administration is stressful enough.”
Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman House Democrats marched through the halls of Congress on Wednesday to deliver a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding that he hold a vote on reopening the government.
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