There is a strong clash of political views in the Democratic ranks. On the one hand, there is the radical impetus of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), on the other, the classic establishment that is not interested in AOC conquering more spaces and continuing to gain popularity.
The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee of the House of Representatives voted this Thursday in favor of Kathleen Rice being part of the Energy and Commerce Committee, thus surpassing her New York colleague, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in a resounding result of 46-13.
This is a new example of the Democrats in the House of Representatives being opposed to the ideas and ways of AOC in many ways. Or at least that is how Politico described it, publishing how the battle between New York’s Rice and AOC was waged for weeks and how it has been one of the most important political conflicts within the Democratic caucus.
“Rice and Ocasio-Cortez have been battling behind the scenes for weeks to secure one of the few open seats on this exclusive committee, which oversees everything from health care policy to climate issues. Tensions spilled into the open Thursday in a private meeting of the Steering and Policy Committee, where Democrats were forced to choose between these two members in a tense — and awkward — secret ballot vote,” says the article.
Before this vote, which is giving the Democrats – radicals and more moderate – a lot of talk, their House leader, Nancy Pelosi, had nominated four representatives, which left only one seat left on the coveted Committee.
“Progressives, both inside and outside of the Capitol, said it would be critical to have Ocasio-Cortez on the Energy and Commerce Committee to help influence critical policies in the early days of the Biden administration,” Politico reported.
But, on the contrary, several senior Democrats, including the Energy and Commerce panel itself, “had privately voiced concerns about Ocasio-Cortez landing the seat. Some feared that the firebrand Democrat, who backs progressive priorities like the “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All,” could cause issues as Congress attempts to draft bipartisan health and climate policies next year.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee deals with issues like the Green New Deal and Medicare for all, so a seat among those who oversee these is a juicy and coveted position within the Democratic Party. It is an opportunity to lead by focusing on the interests of its youngest base -the environment- and major priorities among Democrats in general, such as public health.
Rice was eventually one of five Democrats to win a seat on the exclusive committee, along with Reps. Angie Craig, Kim Schrier, Lizzie Fletcher, and Lori Trahan. AOC was “out” in what is a major political setback for her aspirations.
A one-timer or backlash against AOC?
The overwhelming vote against Ocasio-Cortez comes just one week after the representative openly criticized the Democratic establishment in an interview with The Intercept.
The New York Representative, one of the most radical Progressives in the House, said it was time for new leadership within the party, pointing out that both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Senate minority leader- needed to leave. But, at the same time, she noted that this could leave a vacancy that could be taken by “nefarious forces” that are “more conservative.”
“And my concern, and this I acknowledge as a failing, as something that we need to sort out, is that there isn’t a plan. How do we fill that vacuum? Because if you create that vacuum, there are many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse. And so the actual sad state of affairs is that there are folks more conservative than even they are willing to kind of fill that void.” AOC said.
AOC’s firing at the Democratic establishment and its more moderate parts may be an attempt by the Representative to show herself as a viable, young, “new thinking” alternative in the House although she bluntly denied that she is seeking Pelosi’s place as majority leader in the House of Representatives because she does not yet see herself as qualified.
“The House is extraordinarily complex. And I’m not ready. It can’t be me! I know that I couldn’t do that job.”
The words of Ocasio-Cortez days before defining who would be a member of the Committee, seemed to have an impact on the vote. So, they can be described as a failure of timing or political calculation.
Similarly, the fact that she was excluded from the all-important Committee on Energy and Commerce came as no surprise. Her opponent, Kathleen Rice, was the favorite; perhaps the most surprising result was the vote margin.
Democrats not only have two conflicting views between Moderates and Progressives but also among high-ranking politicians who play to the highest bidder. And all this, in the face of a diminished majority, can be exploited by a strong and united Republican Party.