Ocasio-Cortez: 'We can likely push' Biden 'in a more progressive direction' if he's elected
"I think it's important to acknowledge that we can have, in some cases, very large disagreements — it doesn't mean that we're trying to undermine the party or undermine each other," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Just the News.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said former Vice President Joe Biden is not progressive enough in multiple policy areas but predicted that he "likely" can be pushed further to the left once he's elected president.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a former Democratic presidential candidate, is reportedly concerned Biden is not progressive enough at this point in the campaign, and Ocasio-Cortez said she agrees with that assessment.
"Of course I do," said Ocasio-Cortez. "We're different people, and clearly I, in the primary, one of the reasons why I was supportive of Senator Sanders was because of how progressive his stances are, but, you know, the primaries are over, and right now what is most important is to make sure that we ensure a Democratic victory in November and that we continue to push Vice President Biden on issues from marijuana to climate change to foreign policy."
Ocasio-Cortez is optimistic that her party's progressive wing can push Biden to the left.
"I think, overall, we can likely push Vice President Biden in a more progressive direction across policy issues," she told Just the News in an interview Tuesday on Capitol Hill. "I think foreign policy is an enormous area where we can improve; immigration is another one. There are some areas where we just fundamentally disagree, but that's okay. I think it's important to acknowledge that we can have, in some cases, very large disagreements — it doesn't mean that we're trying to undermine the party or undermine each other. It means that we're trying to do what's best for people in the country."
The New York Democrat — the most visible of the four progressive, first-term women House members known as "the Squad" — described the Biden campaign as "pretty stubborn" on health care reform. Biden has proposed a federally-run public option as opposed to Medicare for all. "We'll see what progress that we're able to make on issues like immigration and criminal justice reform," she added.
Ocasio-Cortez also said she is advocating for Biden to support full legalization of marijuana.
"One perfect example is that I believe in the legalization of marijuana, not just decriminalization, but full legalization, regulation, etc.," she said. "But, you know, we will hash those out. Our main priority is to make sure that the vice president is successful and victorious in November so that we can have those kinds of conversations in the first place from a more effective stance with him in the White House."
While she supports Medicare for all, Ocasio-Cortez said a public option, Biden's plan, is better than the system the U.S. has now under the Affordable Care Act.
"One concern I'd say that I have with a public option is that it very easily allows insurance companies to just kind of bump off their more expensive patients onto a public option, thus making an increase in the costs on a public option and kind of them keeping healthier people that require less insurance coverage for themselves," she said.
"The whole purpose of insurance is to even out those costs, which is why I believe single-payer is a better policy, so in terms of that we do disagree," she added. "But either way, I do think that a public option is likely a better scenario than we have right now."
Ocasio-Cortez was also asked if she thinks progressives are going to be able to convince Biden to support a single-payer health care system.
"That would not just take me to convince him nor any one individual," she said. "We need a mass movement in this country. We need widespread popular support for single payer in order to get a chance at getting it done."