Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of two Democrats on Thursday to vote “present”—basically an abstention—on a House bill giving $1 billion to Israel for its missile defense system, known the “Iron Dome,” in a surprising break with her progressive colleagues in the Democratic caucus.
The bill passed by a vote of 420 to 9, with only AOC and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) voting “present.” One Republican and six Democrats, including progressive “squad” members Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), voted no. During the debate, Tlaib characterized Palestinians as living in a “violent apartheid system.” Omar explained her opposition to the funding in a tweet: “Given the human rights violations in Gaza, Sheikh Jarrah, and ever-growing settlement expansion, we should not be ramming through a last-minute $1 billion increase in military funding for Israel without any accountability.”
In response to Tlaib’s objections to the massive spending bill, Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), said that she “besmirched our ally,” adding “when there’s no place on the map for one Jewish state, that’s anti-Semitism.”
AOC reportedly broke down crying on the House Floor after changing her vote from “no” to “present” at the last minute, which many reporters speculated was a necessary strategic move to position herself to run for Senate in New York. (The congresswoman said earlier this year that she’s “trying to decide” whether to mount a primary challenge to Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in 2022.) Reporters in the room on Thursday described her colleagues gathering around to comfort her as she wiped tears from her face.
The House vote, and AOC’s passive approval, signals that Democrats are still heavily united in their support for Israel over the loud objections of progressives, many of whom continue to protest Israel’s ongoing aggressions against Palestinians.