(CNN) — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez penned a letter to her constituents Friday explaining her emotional reaction to voting “present” on a bill funding Israel’s Iron Dome Aerial Defense System this week.
“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,” the New York Democrat said. “And I wept at the complete lack of regard I often feel our party has to its most vulnerable and endangered members and communities – because the death threats and dangerous vitriol we’d inevitably receive by rushing such a sensitive, charged, and under-considered vote weren’t worth delaying it for even a few hours to help us do the work necessary to open a conversation of understanding.”
The New York congresswoman’s letter comes a day after the House easily approved $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome, advancing the bill to the Senate for consideration with just eight Democrats and one Republican voting against the measure. Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive, was one of just two members to vote “present” on the bill — meaning they did not vote “yes” or “no” — after the funding provision had been struck from a separate bill to prevent a government shutdown and suspend the nation’s borrowing limit.
CNN reported seeing Ocasio-Cortez crying on the floor before voting, and in her letter the congresswoman explained her decision, citing the “rushed” legislative process, which, she said, “created very real spillover effects.”
“It created a real sense of panic and horror among those in our community who otherwise engage thoughtfully in these discussions, and fueled the discussion to devolve to a point where it became clear that this vote would risk a severe devolution of the good faith community fabric that allows us to responsibly join in a struggle for human rights and dignity everywhere – from Palestine to The Bronx and Queens,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The aerial defense system, which has for years been heavily sponsored by the United States, is designed to intercept rockets midair — by targeting them and firing interceptor missiles to destroy them — before they can kill civilians living in Israel. This week’s legislation specifically would provide funding to replace missile interceptors that were used during heavy fighting with Hamas in May.
Last spring, a number of congressional Democrats ramped up pressure on the Biden administration to more forcefully engage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as violence in the region intensified.
“It’s time to have serious conversations about conditioning military aid,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the time.
In her letter Friday, the Democrat made clear she is opposed to the funding, writing that “for far too long, the U.S. has handed unconditional aid to the Israeli government while doing nothing to address or raise the persistent human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, and that this imbalance of power must be centered in any honest conversation about Israel and Palestine.”
She also apologized to those she disappointed with her vote, adding: “To those who believe this reasoning is insufficient or cowardice – I understand. To those who asked me to quell the volatility of this moment in our community, which constituted the majority of constituent feedback our office received – 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.”
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