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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says process of unifying party behind Biden should be 'uncomfortable for everyone'

Posted April 13, 2020 12:40 p.m. EDT
Updated April 13, 2020 1:10 p.m. EDT

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says process of unifying party behind Biden should be 'uncomfortable for everyone'

— New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signaled in an interview published Monday that she will support Joe Biden's presidential bid in November but said that the process of uniting the party behind his campaign should be "uncomfortable for everyone involved."

"And if Biden is only doing things he's comfortable with, then it's not enough," the freshman congresswoman told The New York Times.

Ocasio-Cortez had endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders' bid in October, but the Vermont independent dropped out of the race last week, clearing the way for Biden's path to the Democratic nomination.

The New York Democrat told the Times that Biden's campaign has yet to reach out to her and that his outreach to Sanders' supporters and the more progressive wing of the party must go further. It's up to Biden how enthusiastic her support will be, Ocasio-Cortez told the paper.

She told the Times that a Biden rally with her could be a possibility, but noted she has never spoken to the former vice president. "I'm not trying to needle as a way of making a point or to score points. I want to win. And I want to make sure that we win broadly."

The party's 2016 nominating process dragged on until the convention, when Hillary Clinton claimed the nomination, but much of Sanders' progressive base was still reluctant to support the former secretary of state during the election. Clinton told Howard Stern late last year that Sanders -- who waited until mid-July of that year to back the nominee -- "hurt me" with his late endorsement.

Ocasio-Cortez described the 2020 primary as "much less painful and nasty and fraught as it was in 2016," appearing to open the door to the potential for a smoother unification process between the progressive and moderate wings of the party.

Ocasio-Cortez also said the process of unifying the party should be "uncomfortable for everyone involved -- that's how you know it's working."

"And if Biden is only doing things he's comfortable with, then it's not enough," she told the Times.

Instead of "throwing the progressive wing of the party a couple of bones," Ocasio-Cortez says the conversation should be about "how we can win."

"I think people understand that there are limits to what Biden will do and that's understandable — he didn't run as a progressive candidate," she told the paper. "But, at the bare minimum, we should aspire to be better than what we have been before. And I just don't know if this message of 'We're going to go back to the way things were' is going to work for the people for who the way things were was really bad."

Ocasio-Cortez also said she's flagged Biden's underperformance among Latinos and young people as a pattern that needs attention.

The congresswoman also took aim at Biden's new policy proposal to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60, saying it's "almost insulting."

The Biden campaign announced the new Medicare proposal last week, along with a proposal to forgive student debt for low-income and middle class families who attend public colleges and universities and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), as an olive branch to Sanders' supporters.

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