Almost three years ago. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined a sit-in in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, setting the tone for her tenure as a House representative and raising the profile of the Sunrise Movement, the youth climate group that led the protests.
On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez joined the young protesters once again, this time alongside Reps. Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman (the most recent additions to “The Squad”). Together they called on Biden to create a Civilian Climate Corps as part of his sweeping infrastructure plan, which currently includes nothing of the kind of bold measures the Sunrise Movement is demanding.
“They want you to think, ‘Oh, this is a new idea, this is too ambitious, this is too crazy,’” Ocasio-Cortez said to the crowd on Monday, which gathered in front of the White House fence. “How about this? The last time we introduced the Civilian Climate Corps in this country, we hired and mobilized a quarter-million people in three months. We’re going to get that into this infrastructure bill.”
The Civilian Climate Corps is a call back to Franklin Roosevelt’s “Civilian Conservation Corps,” a New Deal-era program that employed millions of Americans working to maintain the country’s parks and forests. The Climate Corps is Sunrise’s version, which advocates for the creation of good-paying jobs dedicated to addressing the climate crisis.
The proposal made it into the official recommendations from the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, which Sunrise’s president, Varshini Prakash, sat on with Ocasio-Cortez. Biden seemed to take it seriously: In one of his first executive orders, Biden called for the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps to “mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.” And in fact, Biden included the corps in the original iteration of the American Jobs Plan; but unsurprisingly the measure was struck from the plan when it entered negotiations and became the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.”
Ocasio-Cortez has been more direct in recent weeks about the dire political miscalculation Biden is making by failing to adequately address climate in his plan. For anyone who has accused Ocasio-Cortez of being too soft on Biden so far—a sentiment I’ve seen floating around—it seems like she’s indisputably cranking up the intensity.