October 4, 2019 / 3:02 AM / 10 days ago

Ocasio-Cortez sells ambitious U.S. welfare legislation in home district

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday promoted her ambitious welfare legislation to constituents in her home district in New York, finding a friendlier audience than she often encounters in the glare of Washington.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listens to a question from an attendee during a town hall in New York, U.S., October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

But voters in a town hall also pressed her on the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, climate change and healthcare, enabling the first-term congresswoman to display her progressive credentials on a range of issues.

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, has soared to prominence since her election a year ago, pushing the Democratic Party to veer to the left ahead of the November 2020 presidential election while becoming a favourite target of conservative Fox News and Republicans who consider her too radical.

“If the government worked for us half as much as it works for billionaires and corporations, our lives would be transformed,” Ocasio-Cortez said before about 100 people at a public library in the borough of Queens.

She outlined an agenda that may find a path through the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives but would be sure to fail in the Republican-led Senate.

Her “Just Society” proposal, comprising five separate bills, offers plenty of ammunition for critics and admirers.

It would overhaul federal guidelines on the poverty line, now defined as an individual earning less than $13,064 each year or a family of four earning less than $25,465.

Ocasio-Cortez would identify far more people as impoverished and make them eligible for government benefits.

Other bills would steer federal contracts to companies that treat workers well, curbs rent hikes by landlords, or restore rights to former convicts after they have completed jail terms.

One provision certain to spur supporters of Trump’s hardline immigration policies would extend federal benefits to undocumented immigrants.

Ocasio-Cortez told reporters afterward she had yet to fix a price tag to the proposal, but said some provisions would cost nothing and others would cut spending, for example, by reducing the jail population and lowering the cost of incarceration.

“This is a question that is only asked about the general welfare of the public and it’s not a question that we ask about war, it’s not a question that we ask about the $2.1-trillion GOP tax cut,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

“For those that may have a price tag attached to them, we’re happy to have that conversation,” she said, adding that the budget impact would be analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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