Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Explains Why She Voted Against Coronavirus Relief Package

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stood alone on Thursday as the only House Democrat to vote against a $484 billion stimulus package bringing a new round of funding to hospitals and relief to small businesses hard-hit by the pandemic.

With the nearly half-a-trillion-dollar relief package passing in a 388-5 vote, Ocasio-Cortez was joined only by four Republicans, Jody Hice (Ga.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.), in voting against the measure. Independent Justin Amash of Michigan voted present, while 35 members did participate in the vote.

In a floor speech on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez made her opposition to the measure clear, asserting that it did not go far enough to provide individual economic relief to Americans, to include rent and mortgage relief.

"On behalf of my constituents in the Bronx and Queens, New York's 14th congressional district, the most impacted district in America, calling people losing their families every day, it is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill," Ocasio-Cortez said. "The only folks they have urgency around are folks like Ruth's Chris Steak House and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill. You are not trying to fix this bill for mom and pops."

"We have to fight to fund hospitals, fighting to fund testing. That is what we're fighting for in this bill," she said. "It is unconscionable. If you had urgency, you would legislate like rent was due on May 1 and make sure we include rent and mortgage relief for our constituents."

The New York representative further expanded on her opposition to the measure on Twitter, asserting that "Congress just voted for the first time in a MONTH on a bill that doesn't address the core issues facing working families. Then they adjourned again until further notice."

"'Someday' and 'next time' doesn't cut it," she said. "Struggling families need a timeline."

In a statement sent to Newsweek, a spokesperson from Ocasio-Cortez's office added that "the bill did far too little for NY-14–the hardest hit congressional District in the country."

"As it's currently run, [the Paycheck Protection Program] favors collection of big banks fees and big franchises over community banks and true small businesses, particularly those run by people of color. Wall Street has already made $10 billion off the program through fees while tens of thousands of small businesses are still waiting for an answer on their application," they said.

"The bill also provides no funding for state and local governments. [New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo] harshly criticized this bill and said he will have to cut school funding if the federal government does not step up. [Mayor Bill de Blasio] has warned that we may have to lay off the very frontline workers who have served us so valiantly during this crisis," they added.

Ultimately, the spokesperson said, "this bill also didn't provide funding for any of the other urgent needs facing Americans–like hazard pay for our frontline workers or health insurance for those who have lost their employer-sponsored health plans due to unemployment."

"By giving Republicans what they wanted in this bill without extracting any real concessions from them, we eliminated any incentive for them to work with us on these other urgent needs. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said he will pass no additional legislation until May 4 at the absolute earliest and has expressed support for letting state and local governments declare bankruptcy. It's very unclear whether he will support another stimulus, at all," they said.

While Ocasio-Cortez may have been the only House Democrat to vote against the stimulus package, she was not alone in voicing concerns about its failure to provide relief to everyday U.S. residents.

Speaking with Newsweek, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) had said: "We have to do better, we have to deliver real relief. This is not it."

"We took a bad, insufficient Republican package that was proposed, and we made it better, so that's good. But in a couple of days, we will reach the same number of American lives lost that we had in Vietnam," she said.

So far, the U.S. has seen 869,172 confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than 650,000 more than Spain, which has the second-highest count, according to an online tracker maintained by the Johns Hopkins University.

At least 49,963 cases in the U.S. have resulted in death. The death toll for U.S. military casualties in the Vietnam War was recorded to be 58,220.

While progressives have condemned funding measures for failing to do enough for U.S. residents, conservatives like Buck have expressed concerns about how coronavirus relief packages will affect the national deficit.

"We are engaged in a bipartisan bankruptcy of this country," he said in a statement. "We will not heal our communities and put an end to this crisis by throwing trillions of dollars at an economy chained by a government-mandated quarantine."

Meanwhile, Amash explained his vote on Twitter, asserting that the funding package failed to "fix structural flaws that made the last bill so unfair and ineffective."

President Donald Trump has already said he will sign off on the measure, which was passed by Senate in a unanimous vote on Tuesday.

This article has been updated with a statement from Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's office.

AOC
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) addresses supporters during a campaign rally for then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders on March 8, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ocasio-Cortez was the only Democrat to vote against the latest coronavirus relief package. Brittany Greeson/Getty
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Explains Why She Voted Against Coronavirus Relief Package | U.S.