Rep. Liz Cheney said that some of her Republican colleagues in Congress are opposed to a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot because they helped provoke the attack or are otherwise culpable.
Cheney, who was ousted from leadership by her own party on Wednesday, has repeatedly called for a bipartisan commission comprised of retired officials with subpoena power to investigate the attack on the Capitol. But GOP leadership and many other lawmakers are opposed to a commission solely focused on the deadly assault and instead want to expand it to include violence that resulted from Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
“There is real concern among a number of members of my own party about a January 6th commission,” Cheney said. “That kind of intense, narrow focus threatens people in my party who may have been playing a role they should not have been playing.”
She argued that there’s no legitimate reason for lawmakers to oppose the proposed commission and noted that Congress has created similar commissions to investigate other attacks, including 9/11, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Pearl Harbor bombing.
Cheney argued that violence associated with the Black Lives Matter protests should be investigated separately.
“We should not dilute the investigation we have to have into January 6,” she said.
A slew of Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and several House members, have been criticized for actively encouraging the pro-Trump loyalists who stormed the Capitol in the days leading up to Jan. 6 and even on the morning of the attack. 147 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results after the riot.
Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the riot, called rejecting the GOP’s lies about the election and seeking justice for the Capitol riot “the most important issue we are facing right now as a country.” She’s urging her party to reject Trump’s “cult of personality” and rebuild itself on conservative principles and policy. She added that Trump should “never again be anywhere close to the Oval Office.”
“We have to embrace the Constitution, we have to reject the lie, because we have to be a party of substance,” Cheney said. “We have to be able to say to those voters who left us, you should trust us.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene should be investigated by the House Ethics Committee for aggressively questioning and pursuing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Pelosi described Greene yelling at Ocasio-Cortez and following her down a hallway as “abuse” and “verbal assault,” and called the behavior “beyond the pale.”
“It probably is a matter for the Ethics Committee,” Pelosi told reporters, adding that it’s not her place to decide what that committee investigates. “This is beneath the dignity of a person serving in the Congress of the United States and is a cause for trauma and fear among members, especially on the heels of an insurrection in which the minority in the committee yesterday denied ever happened.”
On Wednesday, the far-right freshman lawmaker from Georgia chased Ocasio-Cortez down a hallway as the two left the House chamber, accusing her of supporting terrorists and “radical socialism,” The Washington Post reported Thursday. Greene called out “Hey Alexandria” twice as Ocasio-Cortez walked away, per The Post.
“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene yelled. “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?”
Ocasio-Cortez threw up her hands and said something to Greene that The Post’s reporters couldn’t hear. The Republican then turned to reporters and called Ocasio-Cortez a “chicken” and “pathetic.”
“She’s a chicken, she doesn’t want to debate the Green New Deal,” she said to a small group of reporters and onlookers near the entrance to the chamber. “These members are cowards. They need to defend their legislation to the people. That’s pathetic.”
In response to Wednesday’s incident, a spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez urged congressional leaders and others in charge of enforcing rules at the Capitol to “take real steps to make Congress a safe, civil place.”
“Representative Greene tried to begin an argument with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and when Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tried to walk away, Congresswoman Greene began screaming and called Rep. Ocasio-Cortez a terrorist sympathizer,” the spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, told The Post in a statement. “We hope leadership and the Sergeant at Arms will take real steps to make Congress a safe, civil place for all Members and staff – especially as many offices are discussing reopening. One Member has already been forced to relocate her office due to Congresswoman Greene’s attacks.”
Greene has repeatedly singled out Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive members of Congress and, at one point, released a campaign ad featuring an image of herself holding an assault rifle next to pictures of Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats’ faces. Facebook took down that particular ad for violating its policy against “violence and incitement.”
Ocasio-Cortez has said that she and other Democratic lawmakers don’t feel safe around many Republican House members, particularly those who have minimized or lied about the events of January 6.
Another progressive lawmaker, freshman Rep. Cori Bush, moved offices to be farther away from Greene after she accused Greene of accosting her in a Capitol hallway. Greene denied the charge and called Bush a “terrorist” for helping lead Black Lives Matter protests.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy announced in a Monday letter to his caucus that it will vote on Wednesday on whether to recall Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position amid widespread opposition to her within the party.
McCarthy suggested that Cheney’s criticism of the party’s election lies, which provoked the Capitol riot, had “distracted” her from the work of promoting the Republican agenda. He said that after hearing from “so many” of his members, it had become “clear that we need to make a change.”
“Each day spent relitigating the past is one day less we have to sieze the future,” McCarthy said. “If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as not to detract from the efforts of our collective team.”
Cheney, the House GOP conference chair and third-highest ranking member, has accused many of her fellow Republicans of lying about voter fraud and the election being “rigged” by Democrats. She’s argued that Trump and his allies are “poisoning our democratic system.”
McCarthy insisted that the Republican Party is a “big tent” and encourages internal debate, even as he argued that such a debate was detrimental to the party’s efforts to regain the House majority in 2022 and implement its agenda.
“Unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate,” he said.
Many Republican lawmakers have turned on Cheney since she became one of just 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol attack. Cheney has since urged her party to support a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot — something McCarthy and many others oppose.
McCarthy on Sunday publicly endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Cheney in leadership after telling Fox hosts in a leaked conversation that he had “lost confidence” in Cheney and “had it with her.” Cheney condemned the “dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality” in an op-ed published in The Washington Post last Wednesday.
A handful of Republicans have spoken up in Cheney’s defense. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah tweeted on Monday that ousting Cheney would be politically unwise for the party.
“Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few,” he said.
McCarthy has changed his tune on the president’s complicity in the Capitol attack since January. On Jan. 7, McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for the riot and argued “he should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” McCarthy also rejected the false claim, made by Trump and others on the right, that the Capitol rioters included Black Lives Matter protesters and members of antifa.
But last month, after it had become clear that Trump remained a powerful force in the GOP and popular with the party’s base, McCarthy defended Trump’s response to the riot.
“What I talked to President Trump about, I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn’t see it,” McCarthy told Fox News. “What he ended the call was saying — telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.”
Hours after the attack began, Trump released a video expressing sympathy for the “very special” rioters and gently urged them to “go home.”
“I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now,” Trump said. “We love you. You’re very special.”
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene got into a heated Twitter exchange on Tuesday, exposing the deep anger still roiling the ranks of Congress since the January 6 Capitol riot.
Gallego said the freshman Georgia Republican, who’s embraced a host of far-right conspiracy theories, was aligned with the Capitol rioters after she called her Democratic colleagues “the enemy within” in a tweet.
“I was trying to figure what type of pen to stab your friends with if they overran us on the floor of the House of Representatives while trying to conduct a democratic transition of power,” Gallego said. “So please shut your seditious, Qanon loving mouth when it comes to who loves America.”
In response, Greene accused Gallego of seeking attention, called him a “coward,” and questioned his masculinity.
“While you were hiding with your little pen, brave Republican MEN were helping police hold the door, so that ALL of us could get out safely. Coward,” she wrote.
Gallego then argued there were “many heroes” in the Capitol on January 6, but accused Greene of being one of the “many insurrectionist trying to destroy Democracy [sic].”
The Democrat ended the exchange by saying he didn’t have time for a Twitter feud because he was too busy with legislative work, which he added Greene “wouldn’t know about” because she was stripped of her committee assignments just a month after being sworn in to office.
“I would tweet back and forth with you but I have 2 committee assignments and a bill of mine is being marked,” he tweeted. “That we means it’s passing out of committee. (But you wouldn’t know about that).”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the left wing “Squad” for posing as “perfect” and “pure” progressives and rejecting compromise necessary to achieve legislative results.
USA Today’s Susan Page writes in her forthcoming book, “Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power,” an excerpt of which was published in Politico, that Pelosi “adopted a child-like voice when discussing” Ocasio-Cortez.
“Some people come here, as [former Rep.] Dave Obey would have said, to pose for holy pictures,” Pelosi told Page during a July 2019 interview.
Page writes, “[Pelosi] changed her voice and mimicked a child trying to make a solemn show of piety. ‘See how perfect I am and how pure?'”
The Speaker insisted that Democratic lawmakers who are “operational” and willing to put their heads down and compromise on legislation are more effective than activist members.
“When you come in, cross that door, take that oath, you have to be oriented toward results,” Pelosi told Page. “Have confidence in what you believe in, have humility to listen to somebody else, because you’re not a one-person show. This is the Congress of the United States.”
Ocasio-Cortez has been openly critical of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders during her first few years in Congress. Last year, she said that the party needed “new leadership,” but conceded that progressives hadn’t prepared a new leader to take over.
“The internal dynamics of the House has made it such that there is very little option for succession,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Intercept in December. “The Speaker has indicated that she may be looking at transitioning and leaving at some point, and the left isn’t really making a plan for that either. It’s something that we need to think about.”
“This guy wasn’t even a member of the United States House of Representatives, he was a member of the Senate, stirring up some of the crazies in my own caucus to cause all kinds of problems,” Boehner said of Cruz during a Monday morning interview. “And that’s probably why I zeroed in on him – probably the only person in this book – in the way that I did.”
He added, “As I say in the book, there’s nothing worse than a reckless jackass who thinks he’s smarter than everybody else.”
Boehner writes that Cruz was the “head lunatic” leading “the chaos caucus in the House” of Tea Party members and right-wingers more focused on appearing on right-wing media and escalating “outrage” news cycles to drive campaign donations than passing legislation in Washington. In the audiobook of his memoir, Boehner added an unscripted, “PS, Ted Cruz, go f— yourself.”
In a tweet responding to Boehner’s criticism last week, Cruz called the former Speaker “the Swamp” and said he’s proud to receive his “drunken, bloviated scorn.”
The Ohio Republican, who’s also a sharp critic of former President Donald Trump, paints himself as an establishment Republican looking to find common ground with Democrats and get things done on policy. He criticizes multiple high-profile right-wing lawmakers, calling Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio a “political terrorist” and former Rep. Michele Bachmann a “lunatic.”
But Boehner, who served as speaker from 2011-2015, was overpowered by more right-wing forces in his party and is now out of step with a voter base that remains deeply loyal to Trump and more focused on culture wars than policy change.
Boehner has repeatedly taken aim at Cruz since leaving office. In 2016, he called the senator “Lucifer in the flesh” and told an audience that he’d “never worked with a more miserable son of a b—- in my life.”
Just weeks after the GameStop stock bubble popped, the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee held an hours-long hearing examining what happened.
Though that hearing featured a variety of chief executives, from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman to Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, and even featured one popular financial influencer, the main target of questioning was Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev.
Questions to Robinhood focused on the app’s decision to halt trading and how it “gamifies” stock trading
With over 50 members of the House of Representatives participating, the lines of questioning varied wildly. Some representatives asked Tenev about Robinhood’s choice to halt trading of GameStop and other such “meme stocks” on January 28, while others asked him about Alex Kearns, a 20-year-old Robinhood user who thought he had lost $730,000 on the app. Kearns died by suicide in June 2020.
“I’m sorry to the family of Mr. Kearns for your loss,” Tenev said.
Kearns repeatedly contacted Robinhood’s help desk, but didn’t receive a response before he died. During his allotted time, Rep. Sean Casten played Tenev the recording that users hear when they call Robinhood for help.
He also criticized Robinhood for the “innate tension” at the heart of its business model, which he said is split “between democratizing finance, which is a noble calling, and being a conduit to feed fish to sharks.”
Lawmakers primarily focused on Tenev due to the stock trading app’s critical role in the explosion of GameStop’s stock value: Between January 20 and January 26, GameStop’s stock value leaped from just over $35 per share to north of $140 per share. By January 27, it hit new highs of over $325 per share – an over 8,000% increase from just a few months ago.
The next morning, Robinhood halted trades of the stock because it ran out of money to cover the upfront cost of its customers stock purchases. The company even had to dilute its own value in order to quickly raise capital – a $3.4 billion investment from several different firms was announced in early February.
Tenev repeatedly told lawmakers the same story he’s told previously: Robinhood was forced to temporarily halt trading of GameStop and several other stocks because the National Securities Clearing Corporation demanded $3 billion to cover volatile trades.
And he refuted claims that the decision was driven by the hedge funds which had taken out short positions on GameStop stock, as did Melvin Capital Management CEO Gabe Plotkin who also joined the hearing.
Another notable criticism repeatedly leveled at Robinhood: Gamification. The app notoriously features audio and visual elements that cheer on user actions. “We didn’t encourage anyone to tap on anything,” Tenev said in one such exchange. “We wanted to give our customers delightful features so they know we’re listening to them and we care about them.”
Technical difficulties persisted throughout the nearly 5-hour hearing
From the very beginning of the hearing, technical issues plagued the video conference. Hot mics were frequent, and a few major sound issues caused pauses.
As the hearing – which kicked off at noon – pushed on, exchanges between legislators and interviewees got more and more brief.
Legislators frequently cut in mid-answer with “I’ll reclaim my time” in an effort to squeeze another question in. And an exchange between Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin just after the five-hour mark got particularly contentious, as he attempted to talk over her. “Let me finish my answer. I think it’s important,” he said. “No, no,” Tlaib responded.
The few exchanges with Keith “Roaring Kitty” Gill, a stock trader who made a name for himself as a YouTuber, were largely focused on what he specializes in: stock advice. Gill said he would still buy GameStop stock at its current value, and that he initially bought in months ago because it was “undervalued.” Also of note: Gill’s opening statement included at least one notable meme reference.
Ultimately, there were no huge revelations about the GameStop stock bubble or the major players involved in it from Thursday’s hearing. It’s the first of several such hearings that the financial services committee plans in the wake of the bubble’s popping.
You can watch the full hearing below:
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued on Thursday that some Republican lawmakers, who she accused of “threatening violence” against their Democratic colleagues, are “the enemy” within the House.
Pelosi appeared to back Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic lawmakers who’ve claimed that some GOP members pose a threat to them in the wake of the deadly Capitol siege on January 6.
“I do believe … that we will probably need a supplemental, more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives – a threat that members are concerned about, in addition to what is happening outside,” Pelosi said during a press briefing.
When asked to clarify her remark, Pelosi added, “It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and who have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”
Some Republican members of Congress helped spread conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats – lies that helped motivate the pro-Trump mob to invade the Capitol as Congress certified the Electoral College count and finalized President Joe Biden’s victory.
Ocasio-Cortez told CNN last week that “a very considerable amount” of Democratic lawmakers “still don’t yet feel safe around other members of Congress” following the siege. She condemned GOP Rep. Andy Harris, who last week attempted to violate House rules and bring his concealed gun onto the House floor.
“The moment you bring a gun onto the House floor, in violation of rules, you put everyone around you in danger,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It is irresponsible. It is reckless.”
A man who allegedly took part in the Capitol riot also posted death threats against Ocasio-Cortez online.
Far-right GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia released a campaign ad last year that showed her holding an assault rifle next to photos of Ocasio-Cortez and two other progressive congresswomen of color. Facebook removed the ad, citing its policy prohibiting violence and incitement.
“GOP lawmakers campaigned with images of them cocking guns next to photos of myself,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted earlier this month. “Now they are trying to violate DC law and House rules to sneak guns onto the House floor two weeks after a white supremacist insurrection that killed 5 people. Why?”
Greene has also repeatedly accused Pelosi of treason and advocated for her to be given the death penalty.
“Assigning her to the Education Committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” she said. “When she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school … what could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word?”
GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas objected to seating 67 elected House members from battleground states today, in response to his colleagues that plan to object to certifying the presidential election results.
Roy said “it would confound basic human reason if the presidential results were to face objection while the congressional results of the same process escaped without public scrutiny.”
At least 140 House Republicans are planning to vote against certifying the presidential election results on Wednesday, though the effort cannot affect the results of the vote in any US state.
Roy is among a group of seven House Republicans that have said they do not support the effort to vote against certification of the Electoral College vote.
Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas objected to seating 67 elected House members from battleground states today, in response to his colleagues that plan to object to certifying the presidential election results.
Roy, who does not support objecting to the presidential results, said in a statement that “it would confound basic human reason if the presidential results were to face objection while the congressional results of the same process escaped without public scrutiny.”
He objected to seating representatives from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, citing his colleagues that have said they will object to the presidential electors from those states on the basis that their elections were subject to “statewide, systemic fraud and abuse.”
Roy argued that if those allegations raise significant doubts about the presidential election, they should also call the congressional races into question, as they all occured under the same election systems.
His objections did not block the seating of the House members, as the 117th Congress was sworn in on Sunday.
President-elect Joe Biden won the election by receiving 306 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 232. The results have been certified in every state, and presidential electors cast their votes last month.
The electors’ votes are due to be certified Wednesday during a joint session of Congress that is usually procedural, confirming the winner that voters and the Electoral College have already chosen.
Their objections could delay the certification of the election, but would not alter the vote results of any US state.
Roy is among a group of seven House Republicans that have said they do not support the effort to vote against certification of the Electoral College vote.
In a statement on Sunday, the group, led by Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, said they believe there are “profound questions” regarding the integrity of the election, but that “only the states have authority to appoint electors.”
“Congress has only a narrow role in the presidential election process,” the statement read. “Its job is to count the electors submitted by the states, not to determine which electors the states should have sent.”
In his statement about objecting to seating House members, Roy said if Congress is going to “adequately address” the concerns over the presidential election, then it must be consistent in doing so.
“Anything less would strip the current efforts of their legitimacy and make it look like a political stunt, rather than a good-faith effort to restore confidence in our electoral process,” he said.
A handful of both Republican and Democratic members of Congress are loudly objecting to the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout process, which makes certain politicians a priority to receive a vaccine for the purpose of government continuity and national security.
The National Security Council has determined that an array of both elected and unelected officials should be vaccinated as soon as possible. But some lawmakers argue that they shouldn’t get access to the vaccine before more vulnerable groups do, even as many of their colleagues and public health experts stress the importance of Congress setting an example for the public by taking the vaccine.
The attending physician of Congress and the Supreme Court, Brian Monahan, announced last Thursday that members of Congress would receive a tranche of doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine and urged officials to get it immediately.
“My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: There is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine,” he wrote in a letter to Congress. “The benefit far exceeds any small risk.”
After the lawmakers are all given the chance to be vaccinated, other “continuity-essential staff members” on Capitol Hill will be offered the vaccine, but this doesn’t include spouses and family members of lawmakers. So far, about 50 members of the House and Senate – who are required to travel to Washington, DC, regularly – have been infected with the virus.
A slew of Republican lawmakers and activists, led by President Donald Trump, have spent months spreading misinformation about the severity of COVID-19 and actively undermined efforts to contain the virus. There is widespread and longstanding skepticism and opposition to vaccines across a broad swath of the US population.
As many as half of Americans are unsure about taking a COVID-19 vaccine or say they won’t get it, according to recent polling by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in late November found increasing confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines as the rollout continues.
Some top government officials and lawmakers, including President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have also received the vaccine over the last few days.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, got the vaccine on Tuesday and has urged Trump to be vaccinated as well. White House officials have said Trump is holding off on getting the vaccine because he was given an experimental antibody treatment earlier this fall after he contracted COVID-19.
‘People have come to expect that things may be unfair’
Some lawmakers have made a concerted effort to educate the public about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines and argued that officials should set an example for skeptical Americans.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted a video of herself receiving the vaccine over the weekend and explained that she wanted to boost public confidence in the vaccine given the pervasive nature of misinformation that’s been spread about COVID-19. She answered questions about the vaccines and explained the basic science behind it to her millions of social media followers.
“I would would never, ever ask you to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself,” the 31-year old wrote.
A post shared by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@aoc)
But some lawmakers have received pushback for taking the vaccine early. Few Americans – about 16%, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll – think that elected officials should get access to the vaccine before higher-risk groups.
Critics have pointed to the hypocrisy of many Republicans who downplayed the threat posed by COVID-19 and undermined efforts to stem the spread being among the first Americans to receive the vaccine.
Sen. Joni Erst, an Iowa Republican, has faced widespread backlash for receiving the vaccine on Sunday after spending months casting doubt on COVID-19 deaths and undermining public health guidance. Ernst has pushed the baseless claim, promoted by QAnon conspiracy theorists, that healthcare providers were inflating the coronavirus death toll in order to boost their revenue. And she falsely suggested in September that under 10,000 Americans had died of the virus, when more than 180,000 Americans had been killed by COVID-19 at the time.
Petula Dvorak, a columnist for The Washington Post, compared certain lawmakers getting special access to the vaccine to VIP passengers aboard the Titanic escaping early on lifeboats before the ship sunk.
“The very folks who downplayed the virus, partied maskless at the White House and called the coronavirus a hoax created to hurt President Trump are now getting the vaccine ahead of front-line and essential workers, and even the vulnerable residents in long-term-care facilities,” she wrote.
Karen Emmons, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, said members of Congress should take a variety of factors – the power of their example, national security, and their own level of risk – into account when deciding when to be vaccinated in order to maximally benefit public health. She noted that Americans will likely be particularly sensitive to how they respond as long as access to the vaccine remains limited.
“In situations of scarcity, people have come to expect that things may be unfair,” Emmons told Insider. “If [lawmakers] deem that the right choice is to be vaccinated now, they could double-down on other ways to show their support for our frontline and health care workers who remain at risk until they can be vaccinated.”
Bipartisan division over access to the COVID-19 vaccine
Still, a handful of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, who are likely wary of public criticism, have announced that they won’t take the vaccine immediately.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who has rejected mask-wearing and social distancing, attacked his colleagues, particularly “young healthy” people like Ocasio-Cortez, for taking the vaccine.
“It is inappropriate for me – who has already gotten the virus/has immunity – to get in front of elderly/healthcare workers,” Paul tweeted on Monday about his decision not to immediately get the vaccine. “Same goes for AOC or any young healthy person. They should be among last, not first.”
Ocasio-Cortez hit back at the senator, arguing that lawmakers must “make sure the vaccine isn’t politicized the way masks were politicized” and she blamed Republicans like Paul for spreading disinformation about the virus.
A handful of Democrats have sided with Paul. On Sunday, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota progressive closely aligned with Ocasio-Cortez, argued that it’s “shameful” for members of Congress to take the vaccine ahead of frontline workers. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, similarly urged her colleagues to “stand in solidarity with our seniors by not [getting the vaccine] until THEY can.”
But there is broad mainstream consensus, even among Republicans, that lawmakers should follow the national security directive.
The two other members of the self-named “Squad” of freshman congresswomen, which includes Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, have received the vaccine. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the Massachusetts Democrat, told CNN that she “wanted to set an example” for Black Americans who might be concerned about the safety of the vaccine.
“Continuity of government and the travel required for members of Congress justify early vaccinations,” Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political strategist, told Insider. “I hope members of Congress take their responsibility as elected officials seriously and take advantage of the vaccine, to build public confidence in its safety and efficacy.”
Dr. Demetrios Kyriacou, an epidemiology professor at Northwestern University, said members of Congress should set an example for communities where anti-vaccine sentiment runs high. He pointed out that the conservative communities that Republican lawmakers represent might be most unconvinced by the safety of the vaccine and most in need of role modeling.
“Congressmen and congresswomen should not wait,” Kyriacou told Insider. “I think it is very important, especially among the more conservative sections of our population as this group tends to be more reluctant to get vaccinated. In addition, Black and Hispanic lawmakers should get vaccinated publicly to encourage these sections of our population to also get vaccinated.”