- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says the next Congress will be “a little less lonely” when “The Squad” of young far-left lawmakers expands into a platoon.

At least four newly elected Democrats in the AOC mold will make advancing their progressive agenda “a little bit lighter work,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Times.

The Squad’s growing ranks give its members outsized leverage given the Democrats’ historically thin majority in the House, with just a handful of defections needed to sink bills put on the floor by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I just think it’s so exciting,” the New York Democrat said. “All of these folks … they’re just so exciting as individuals and as leaders, and they don’t just represent the diversity of our caucus but the ambition of a progressive future.

“Each of these individuals, they come leading and blazing their own shooter path and their own trail, but it certainly feels a little less lonely.”

The Squad nickname began as an Instagram caption for four congresswomen elected in 2018 who embodied a new generation of Democratic leaders: Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

The label quickly grew into a cultural movement that confronted both President Trump and Mrs. Pelosi.

For the past two years, critics dismissed the Squad as a handful of votes with more social media influence than actual political power. In a 2019 interview on “60 Minutes,” Mrs. Pelosi brushed them off as “like five people” and not representative of the party’s left wing.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s response, given to The Daily Beast in June: “All right, let’s go get more.”

And she did.

All four of the original Squad members proved their political viability by dominating their reelection bids, and several of their far-left comrades toppled senior members of the Democratic Party.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus with 97 current members will remain one of the largest ideological groups in the House and, with a significant number of swing districts won by Republicans, gain a stronger voice within the Democratic Party.

The party’s emboldened left wing plans to leverage that power not only in the House but also to bend President-elect Joseph R. Biden to their will.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez also recognizes, however, that with the Democrats’ slimmer majority and potential Republican control of the Senate, compromise will be necessary.

“There are less people that we can lose on a given margin, and you know that may incentivize some watering down of legislation a little bit more,” she said. “But I also think that it’s a blessing that this narrow margin is really going to force us to work together.”

These are some of Congress’ new class of freshman lawmakers turning the Squad into a Platoon:

Marie Newman, Illinois 3rd District

Marie Newman, the first woman elected to Congress in her suburban Chicago district, unseated eight-term incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski in the primary. She narrowly lost to him in their first showdown in 2018.

In the Nov. 3 general election, Ms. Newman glided to victory in the solidly Democratic district.

A vocal champion for a “Medicare for All” government-run health care system and the “Green New Deal” environmental makeover of the economy, Ms. Newman had the backing of a slew of liberal groups and leaders, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Ms. Newman also enjoyed support from Justice Democrats, the far-left group credited with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s rise in 2018.

Ms. Newman was appointed to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Cori Bush, Missouri 1st District

Cori Bush is a former nurse and now the first Black representative from Missouri. In the Democratic primary, she defeated Rep. Lacy Clay, a 10-term congressman who was deeply entrenched in Democratic Party leadership.

It was her second time running against him. Her 2018 bid was featured in Netflix’s documentary “Knock Down the House” alongside Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s race.

A Black Lives Matter activist, she arrived on Capitol Hill for orientation wearing a face mask honoring Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot during a police raid in Kentucky this year. Ms. Bush said several Republicans mistook her for Taylor and called her “Breonna,” assuming it was her name.

“It hurts. But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here. Breonna must be central to our work in Congress,” she said at the time in a tweet.

Ms. Bush will serve on the House Judiciary Committee.

Mondaire Jones, New York 17th District

Mondaire Jones made history as one of the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress.

Despite hailing from an affluent district just outside of New York City — it’s home Bill and Hillary Clinton, the former president and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, respectively — Mr. Jones embraced policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

Mr. Jones, a former Obama Justice Department lawyer, was also appointed to the House Judiciary Committee.

Jamaal Bowman, New York 16th District

In a victory closely compared to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s toppling of former Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley in 2018, Jamaal Bowman unseated a leader of the party: Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, who has served in Congress for decades.

Mr. Bowman championed racial issues, stirring up controversy this month for comparing capitalism to slavery because of the racial economic disparities he said have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former school principal, he will serve on the House Education and Labor Committee.

Mr. Bowman, Ms. Bush and Mr. Jones already started their Squad duties in November, joining a large rally headlined by three of the original group outside of the Democratic National Committee headquarters to ramp up pressure on the Biden administration to address climate change.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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