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AOC seen visibly shaken after casting vote to abstain on Iron Dome funding bill

Progressive congresswoman who pushed to have $1 billion removed from separate spending bill changes her vote at last minute from ‘no’ to ‘present’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seen visibly shaken up after casting 'present' vote on Iron Dome funding bill on the House floor on September 23, 2021. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seen visibly shaken up after casting 'present' vote on Iron Dome funding bill on the House floor on September 23, 2021. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was seen visibly shaken up on the House floor Thursday after casting her “present” vote, effectively abstaining on an Iron Dome funding bill that she had been instrumental in having scrapped from separate government funding legislation earlier this week.

Ocasio-Cortez was one of just two lawmakers who voted “present” on the bill to provide Israel with $1 billion for its Iron Dome missile defense system, which passed overwhelmingly, 420-9.

But she was just about the only member of the so-called Progressive “Squad” that did not vote against the bill.

Asked about her emotional response after the vote, Ocasio-Cortez told The Independent, “What we saw is a disappointment of just a willingness to rip our communities apart and put member safety at risk.”

She did not elaborate further, but appeared to refer to the visceral reactions members voting against the funding had been receiving from opponents.

Asked if there was still a stigma around politicians crying, Ocasio-Cortez responded to The Independent, “you tell me.”

Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, who was who was on the House floor with Ocasio-Cortez during the vote, said the Squad member was also upset over the manner in which the bill was rushed to a vote without going through committee.

“It’s very upsetting to people like she and I when it’s not in regular order, there were a lot of different opinions,” Dingell told The Independent, noting that Ocasio-Cortez has a significant Jewish community in her district.

“The way that it was handled, and several of us have made it very well-known to leadership, it should never have been brought up that way and it should not have been out of regular order,” Dingell added.

Eight Democrats — Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Andre Carson, Marie Newman, Jesus Garcia, Raul Grivalva — and one Republican, Rep. Tom Massie, cast “no” votes against HR 5323.

Ocasio-Cortez had initially voted “no” when the voting began but changed her vote to “present” at the last minute after she was seen huddling with fellow progressive colleagues.

Her office did not respond to a request for comment on her decision to vote “present” and several congressional aides who work with her office said they did not know why Ocasio-Cortez voted the way she did.

Conservatives and pro-Israel voices on social media mocked Ocasio-Cortez for apparently crying and claiming it was part of “more Jew-hating theatrics from the Squad.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington Bureau Chief Ron Kampeas tweeted, “AOC’s ‘present’ may be the most concrete sign so far of her Senate ambitions,” suggesting that a “no” vote on Iron Dome funding would’ve exposed her to too much criticism in pro-Israel circles critical for a Senate run.

There have also been reports of death threats that the congresswoman has received after Israel-related votes, which may have been on her mind while casting her decision on Thursday.

In addition to pushing for the Iron Dome funding to be scrapped from the government spending bill, Ocasio-Cortez also led efforts to block a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel; so her vote Thursday was sure to anger progressives.

The second-term New York congresswoman had largely avoided the issue through her early days on Capitol Hill, apparently recognizing its polarizing nature. Last September though, she agreed to attend an event a memorial event for former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin hosted by the left-wing Americans for Peace Now group.

Pressure from progressive groups was immediate after the publication of Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance, and she chose to withdraw several days later, with her office saying that an event memorializing a former IDF general was not the appropriate backdrop for the congresswoman.

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