Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat representing the Bronx and Queens in New York, claimed that the shutdown, now into a record fourth week, is “not about a wall.”
“It is not about a border. And it is certainly not about the wellbeing of everyday Americans,” she said. “The truth is, this shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.”
“It is not normal to hold 800,000 workers’ paychecks hostage. It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want,” she continued.
“And it is certainly not normal to starve the people we serve for a proposal that is wildly unpopular among the American people.”
Ocasio-Cortez explained how the shutdown is affecting one of her constituents, an air traffic controller in New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport surnamed Obed, who came to the US from Yemen when he was eight years old.
Air traffic controllers are not getting paid during the shutdown, which Trump said could last for months or “years,” though workers who are not furloughed will likely be paid after it ends.
Ocasio-Cortez said: “Every single day, air traffic controllers have thousands of people’s lives in their hands, with weather changes, flight delays, staffing complexities and a myriad of other issues, their days almost never go exactly to plan.”
“And it is terrifying to think that almost every single air traffic controller in the United States is currently distracted at work because they don’t know when their next paycheck is coming.”
She added about her constituent: “His childhood dream was to become a pilot, and he knew and felt that in the United States all things are possible, and his dream could come true. Mr Obed’s dream did come true.”
But he is now stressed paying his mortgage and supporting his two children, she said.
“Federal workers’ jobs are stressful enough. The rise in New York City’s cost of living is stressful enough,” she said. “His several-thousand-dollar-a-month Bronx mortgage is stressful enough. The anti-immigrant sentiment of this administration is stressful enough.”
Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman House Democrats marched through the halls of Congress on Wednesday to deliver a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding that he hold a vote to reopen the government.