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Ocasio-Cortez back in line, drops calls for ousting Pelosi and Schumer

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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is downplaying a future where she would consider running for Speaker ofthe House or the U.S. Senate, saying instead that Democratic voters should focus on electing more candidates like her.

In an interview with Business Insider, the second-term self-described Democratic Socialist from New York appeared to back away from earlier comments in which she suggested that the party needs new, younger leadership and that she might be interested in fulfilling that role.

“That’s a lot to put on one person,” “AOC,” as she is nicknamed, said. “This isn’t about saviorism policies.”

By electing more Democrats who lean farther to the left, Ocasio-Cortez explained, it will become easier to pass legislation like raising the minimum wage and her signature climate regulatory scheme known as the “Green New Deal.”

That said, Business Insider reported that there are whispers throughout Washington, D.C., that Ocasio-Cortez is eying challenges to “establishment” Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who will turn 81 on March 26, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of AOC’s home state of New York, in the coming years.

Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez have had a rocky relationship since the latter managed to defeat who many considered an establishment Democratic incumbent, Joe Crowley, a leader in his party, in 2018.

Just days after she defeated Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez joined environmental activists who occupied Pelosi’s office to support their demands for a Green New Deal-like legislative scheme to end all reliance on fossil fuels by 2035. 

After hinting that she would not support Pelosi to become speaker, she nevertheless voted ‘yes’ after Congress was convened in January 2019, and supported Pelosi again earlier this year.

Pelosi said in November that her current four-year speaker term would be her last, Fox News reported.

As for Schumer, in recent years he has swung further to the left on many issues, perhaps over fears that Ocasio-Cortez was planning to primary him soon. In December, she said during an interview with The Intercept she believed it is time for Pelosi and Schumer to be replaced with younger, more left-leaning members.

“I do think we need new leadership in the Democratic Party,” she said. “I think one of the things that I’ve struggled with, I think that a lot of people struggle with, is the internal dynamics of the House has made it such that there [are] very little options for succession.”

That said, she took herself out of the running for Pelosi’s speakership.

“The House is extraordinarily complex and I’m not ready,” she said. “It can’t be me. I know that I couldn’t do that job.”

She went on to complain that the party’s current leaders have concentrated their power “with a lack of real grooming on next generation of leadership.”

“My concern — and I acknowledge this as a failing, as something that we need to sort out — is that there isn’t a plan,” she explained. “How do we fill that vacuum? Because if you create that vacuum, there are so 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.”

Still, a former aide to Schumer said the long-serving New York senator isn’t concerned about any challenge from AOC.

That’s because he has “always had an excellent relationship with the progressives in the Democratic Party in New York, and the centrists in the Democratic Party in New York,” Jim Kessler told Business Insider.

Ocasio-Cortez went on to tell the outlet that it will take time for progressives to increase their numbers in the Democratic Party.

“We can’t just pull a lever and say, ‘Why isn’t anything changing?’ Democracy takes more than that,” she said. “Everybody needs to step it up — everybody.

“You don’t elect four people and think this country changes like that,” she added. “It takes that, and it takes a whole new generation of people up and down the ballot.”

Jon Dougherty

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