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A Note to Our NY-14 Community from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

September 24, 2021

To our NY-14 community,

Yesterday, the House called to the floor a rushed, $1 billion supplemental military funding bill for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. I want to be clear with our community that I am opposed to this bill, but ultimately cast a PRESENT vote. My job as your representative is to first and foremost serve with transparency and remain accountable to you, the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District.

First, let me begin with why I believe this bill should have been opposed: contrary to popular narrative, this bill was not for all U.S. funding of the Iron Dome, and opposing it would not defund U.S. financing of the system in any way, shape, or form. Since 2011, the U.S. has provided $1.7 billion for the Iron Dome and is already financially committed to continuing these funds through 2028. This bill adds an additional $1 billion in funding in one year to this system alone - for context, that is an amount in one year that approaches all the funding to this system we have provided over the last decade - and this is in addition to $3 billion authorized earlier this year in other forms of military funding to the Israeli government. I believe strongly that Congress should take greater scrutiny with all military funding across the world. I also believe 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 - in addition to the many other governments we militarily fund with a pattern of human rights abuses, such as the Saudi and Colombia related amendments I introduced last week as well.

In addition to opposing the substance of the Iron Dome supplemental bill, the process of bringing it to the House floor was deeply unjust. The legislative language itself was initially introduced, earlier this week, by way of an attempt to quietly slip this funding into routine legislation, without any of the usually-necessary committee debate, markup, or regular order. A funding leap this significant in a policy area that is already so charged and fraught for many communities, particularly our own, deserves the respect of a proper legislative process.

Unfortunately, that process did not happen. And, the reckless decision by House leadership to rush this controversial vote within a matter of hours and without true consideration created a tinderbox of vitriol, disingenuous framing, deeply racist accusations and depictions, and lack of substantive discussion on this matter. I want to be clear that the decision to rush this vote - virtually preventing any member from meaningfully consulting with their community - was both intentional and unnecessary. Even the night before, as it became clear that the discourse around this issue was quickly devolving from substance to hateful targeting, I personally had a call with the House Majority Leader to request a 24 hour stay of the vote, so that we could do the work necessary to bring down the temperature and volatility, explain our positions, and engage our communities. That request was summarily dismissed. Not only was the request dismissed, but despite the House having almost 8 straight hours of votes yesterday, this vote was chosen to be the first despite being one of the most controversial.

The damage of this careless process created very real spillover effects into our community. 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. In short, the rush of this vote into a matter of hours was threatening to tear our community apart, and permanently close the doors that we desperately need open in order to progress. 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. 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.

It certainly wasn’t the first time people’s wellbeing was tossed aside for political convenience, and sadly I do not believe it will be the last. To those I have disappointed - I am deeply sorry. 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.

Yours,

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez