House of Representatives Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
On Thursday, observers spotted the New York lawmaker, a leading progressive, crying on the floor of the House and being consoled by her colleagues after she switched her vote from "no" to "present" for an Israel defense funding bill she says she still opposes.
That vote split her from other progressives in the House, including Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
The bill, which passed 420 to nine, green-lights $1 billion in additional funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system, which shields the country from aerial attacks.
While Israel defense funding remains an overwhelmingly bipartisan issue, the country's government has been criticized by a group of Democrats (including Ocasio-Cortez) for its stance on the Palestinians.
In a subsequent post on her website addressing her constituents, Ocasio-Cortez explained her reaction during the vote and why she was against the funding.
"I believe strongly that Congress should take greater scrutiny with all military funding across the world," she wrote, arguing that "for far too long, the U.S. has handed unconditional aid to the Israeli government."
However, she took aim at the process rather than her decision to choose "present" instead of "yes" or "no," which indicated she was in the chamber for the vote but would take no official position for or against the bill.
"To those I have disappointed — I am deeply sorry," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "To those who believe this reasoning is insufficient or cowardice — I understand."
She wrote that she was disappointed that the bill was "rushed" to a vote through a process that prevented the legislation from receiving the "usually-necessary committee debate, markup, or regular order."
House of Representatives Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (bottom left)
"In addition to opposing the substance of the Iron Dome supplemental bill, the process of bringing it to the House floor was deeply unjust," she wrote.
"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," she wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez called the handling of the process a "reckless decision by House leadership" and told her constituents that she unsuccessfully sought a 24-hour pause on the vote from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
The issue of additional funding for the Israeli defense system is contentious in Congress. The New York Times reports that some who oppose the spending labeled Israel an "apartheid state" while its proponents countered with accusations of antisemitism.
A rushed vote, Ocasio-Cortez wrote in her letter, "created a tinderbox of vitriol, disingenuous framing, deeply racist accusations and depictions, and lack of substantive discussion on this matter."
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
She wrote that she was also angered by the timing because it didn't allow her to consult with members of her community in New York City.
"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," she wrote, "from Palestine to The Bronx and Queens."
"Yes, I wept," she continued. "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."
Colleagues of Ocasio-Cortez on both sides of the vote were seen huddling around her and offering hugs after she broke down in tears.