Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shut down claims that her Green New Deal proposition was "elitist" with a seething speech on Tuesday.
During a House Financial Services Committee meeting, Ocasio-Cortez ripped into criticism from Republican Representative Sean Duffy, of Wisconsin, who called the wide-ranging plan to slash carbon emissions and move towards renewable energy roughly within the next decade an elitist fantasy.
"The Green New Deal is one that if you're a rich liberal from maybe New York or California, it sounds great," Rep. Duffy said, citing people who might retrofit their homes to be more energy-efficient. "But when you can barely pay the rent, or you can barely afford a mortgage...to look at the cost increases that the Green New Deal will have on poor American families, it's outrageous."
"You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water are elitist?" Ocasio-Cortez shot back, noting that a year ago, she'd been bartending in Manhattan. "Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint, whose kids have their blood...is ascending in lead levels, their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives. Call them 'elitist.'"
"People are dying," she continued. "This is serious. This should not be a partisan issue, this is about our constituents and all of our lives." Ocasio-Cortez cited farms and towns in the midwestern United States that will "never be recovered" given the weight of climate change. "And we're here and people are more concerned with helping oil companies than helping their own families? I don't think so."
Ocasio-Cortez's remarks, which went viral Tuesday night, came the same day as the Senate struck down the proposal 57-0. Democrats have criticized Republicans, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, for urging a "sham vote" as a pointed way to reveal schisms between the party, especially as the 2020 election begins to rev up. 43 Democratic legislators voted as "present" instead of casting a hard vote for or against the Green New Deal, as The Guardian reports.
None of that seemed to deter Ocasio-Cortez, who reiterated the importance of the Green New Deal as a preventative measure for even worse consequences of climate change down the line. "We are facing a national crisis. And if we do not ascend to that crisis...then I don't know what we're here doing," she said. Addressing those who balked at the plan's cost, she noted that there's going to be a cost either way. "Because as towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we're going to pay and we're either going decide if we're going to pay to react or pay to be proactive," she said.
You can watch Ocasio Cortez's further remarks about the cost of inaction on climate change here: