Vowing to be "fully accountable" to movement, Ocasio-Cortez joins Biden's climate crisis task force

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will co-chair former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign task force on climate change

Published May 13, 2020 12:39PM (EDT)

Joe Biden and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Salon/Getty Images/AP Photo)
Joe Biden and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Salon/Getty Images/AP Photo)

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Following her call for former Vice President Joe Biden to reach out to progressives in order to win the 2020 general election against President Donald Trump, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accepted an invitation to co-chair the Biden campaign's newly-formed "unity task force" on the climate.

Ocasio-Cortez will join former Secretary of State John Kerry in leading the task force, which also counts among its members Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash and Poor People's Campaign leader Catherine Flowers.

Both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who suspended his presidential campaign last month, and Biden nominated members of their campaigns to join the panels.

A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez, Lauren Hitt, said in a statement that the congresswoman "will be fully accountable to" members of the climate justice community while serving on the task force.

"She believes the movement will only be successful if we continue to apply pressure both inside and outside the system," Hitt said. "This is just one element of the broader fight for just policies."

Ocasio-Cortez's appointment to the panel comes a month after she said in a New York Times interview that she intends to support Biden in the general election, but that he must work closely with and listen to progressives to win over the vast majority of Democratic voters who support bold policy proposals like the Green New DealMedicare for All, and economic reforms focused on working people. 

"If Biden is only doing things he's comfortable with, then it's not enough," Ocasio-Cortez said last month, adding that Biden's campaign had not yet reached out to her. Days before her interview, Sanders had suspended his campaign, urging Biden to bring both of their teams together to "work out real solutions to these very, very important problems."

"I commend Joe Biden for working together with my campaign to assemble a group of leading thinkers and activists who can and will unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction," Sanders said Wednesday.

Justice Democrats Waleed Shahid wrote that Ocasio-Cortez's appointment to the climate task force is in line with what progressive groups demanded when they called on Biden to "Earn Our Vote" last month. 

Other progressives and former Sanders surrogates and advisers who are joining Biden's new committees include:

  • Labor leader Sara Nelson, co-chair of the economy task force.
  • Economist Stephanie Kelton, member of the economy task force.
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the healthcare task force.
  • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights president Vanita Gupta, member of the criminal justice task force.

"The work of the task forces will be essential to identifying ways to build on our progress and not simply turn the clock back to a time before Donald Trump, but transform our country," Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

That comment from Biden echoed Ocasio-Cortez's words in her interview last month, when she said, "I just don't know if this message of 'We're going to go back to the way things were' is going to work for the people for who the way things were was really bad."

On Twitter, Prakash shared why, "after much deliberation," she had accepted the invitation to join the climate task force.

"What I do on a task force is much less important than what we do collectively as a movement this year," Prakash wrote. "Our political power exists because of our people power."

"As I step onto this task force," she added, "I'm taking each and every member of our movement with me. I will fight as hard as I can for a platform that will do the most good for the most people." 

By Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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