Oregon's U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found much to agree on during a virtual town hall on Thursday, Oct. 15.
The two Democrats — though decades apart in terms of age and years in public office — were speaking in chorus as they discussed the Green New Deal, the need for racial justice and greater access to affordable housing.
"This is what we desperately need to capture the imagination and drive it forward," said Blumenauer, describing the Green New Deal policy proposal spearheaded by Ocasio-Cortez. "People in Oregon know that the costs of delay, the costs of continual carbon pollution, far outweigh any investment that we need to make."
Ocasio-Cortez framed the Green New Deal as a "jobs creation and infrastructure" plan that would spur economic growth in a "wartime style" effort to address the climate crisis and transition away from the use of fossil fuels.
The congresswoman from Queens, who is often called by her initials, AOC, similarly praised Blumenauer's push to increase the supply of public housing, build bike lanes and legalize marijuana.
"I haven't had the benefits of the experience you've had, Earl," Ocasio-Cortez remarked, noting the current era of hyperpolarization between the aisles. But, "Just because something is bipartisan doesn't automatically make it good."
Ocasio-Cortez and Blumenauer successfully passed in the House a repeal of the Faircloth Amendment — which prevents the federal government from building new affordable housing units above the number present in 1999 — though it did not make it through the Senate.
The politicians took written questions from constituents in both districts, including a class of fifth graders at Portland's Buckman Elementary regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I've very proud of you all for asking this question," said Ocasio-Cortez.
She also recalled walking around her neighborhood for an hour, searching fruitlessly for a grocery store with fresh basil in stock to illustrate the plight of food deserts and lack of access to nutritional food.
After an audience member asked when the two like-minded colleagues would visit each others' districts in real life, Ocasio-Cortez responded: "When everyone starts wearing a mask, we can start putting some dates down."
"I'm buying a tent for my back yard so we can do this in a socially-distant fashion," joked Blumenauer, recalling that he had been in her district when running the New York Marathon on three occasions.
In response to a reporter's question, Ocasio-Cortez said she has never visited Oregon but praised the state's vote-by-mail procedures and said Oregon's legalization of marijuana could serve as a model for the rest of the nation.
"It is an incredible priority," she said. "There's (a) path toward legalization, where everyday people and especially the Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs can be at the front of the line."
Blumenauer represents Portland and the eastern parts of Multnomah and Clackamas counties.
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