Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Republicans of effectively defunding the police by opposing sending federal aid to states and cities as part of Congress’ COVID-19 relief package.
“You want to know who’s actually trying to defund the police? Republicans,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Because Republicans are trying to block state and local funding so that those budgets dry up.”
By turning “defund the police” back on Republicans, Ocasio-Cortez, who has embraced the left-wing calls, appeared to concede that the slogan is unpopular and controversial, even among Democrats.
She acknowledged on Thursday that sending aid to states and cities would help fund police in the “short term.”
Progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday attempted to redirect criticism over calls to defund the police to Republicans who oppose sending federal aid to state, local, and tribal governments amid the pandemic.
Ocasio-Cortez, who supports left-wing activists’ demands to reallocate law enforcement funding, made the case that Republicans are effectively defunding law enforcement across the country by refusing to support the aid during an Instagram livestream on Thursday night.
“One part of this COVID package is to get states and localities money so they can keep paying their police officers,” Ocasio-Cortez told tens of thousands of her online followers. “Everyone’s talking about defund. You want to know who’s actually trying to defund the police? Republicans. Because Republicans are trying to block state and local funding so that those budgets dry up.”
The freshman Democrat explained that the federal funding Democrats want to include in the relief bill would help pay for frontline workers, including teachers, firefighters, healthcare providers, in addition to police departments.
Outside of the progressive left, there’s broad consensus among Democrats that an embrace of calls to defund the police hurt Democratic candidates down ballot this year. President-elect Joe Biden, who has called for police reform but rejects the “defund” language, recently privately told civil rights leaders that Republicans “beat the living hell out of us across the country” by accusing Democrats of pushing to defund the police.
By turning “defund the police” back on Republicans, Ocasio-Cortez appeared to concede that the slogan is unpopular and controversial, even among Democrats. She acknowledged on Thursday that sending aid to states and cities would help fund police in the “short term.”
The congresswoman has been heavily criticized by members of her own party for embracing calls to defund the police over the last year. But the Bronx native has largely rejected this criticism, insisting that New York City spends far too much on the police, particularly in comparison to social services, and that Democrats should listen to activists’ demands.
A battle over popular aid for states and cities
State and local governments have suffered from dramatic drops in tax revenue as unemployment has soared, and from tourism and retail as governments have been forced to close businesses throughout the pandemic.
Congress sent $150 billion to states and large cities and counties as part of the $4 trillion CARES Act last March. But experts predict states will collectively lose at least $500 billion in revenue over the next few years as a result of the pandemic and economic crisis. While the federal government can deficit spend, states must balance their annual budgets and are forced to make spending cuts if their revenue falls.
State and local leaders have requested between $500 billion and $1 trillion in additional aid as the virus surges across the country. The House included $500 billion in aid to cities and states in the $2.2 trillion it passed in October. Over the last several months, a handful of major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have announced budget cuts to their police departments.
But while Democrats insist that state and local funding must be part of any pandemic relief package, Republican lawmakers are staunchly opposed to such aid. President Donald Trump has accused Democrats of wanting to bail out “poorly run states.”
“Tennesseans are very much opposed to having their hard-earned dollars … used to bail out states who have chosen not to be fiscally responsible,” GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said on Friday. “They say above all else, do not bail out these states, these cities, these pension funds.”
Polling has found that the vast majority of Americans, including large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, support federal funding for state and municipal governments during the pandemic. A CNBC/Change Research poll conducted at the end of July found that 68% of Americans in six swing states supported such aid as local governments are forced to lay off workers and defund important services and projects.
At the same time, just 32% of swing state respondents supported the GOP proposal to shield corporations and schools from liability.
A national Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted in April found that 74% of Americans – 65% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats – said the federal government “should be responsible for providing financial support to states during the coronavirus pandemic.”
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