The second-term “Squad” congresswoman appeared to downplay talk that she might seek more power in Washington, such as the House speakership, a U.S. Senate seat or even a run for president in 2024 in a conversation with Business Insider.
“That’s a lot to put on one person,” she told the outlet, adding later, “This isn’t about saviorism politics.”
She stressed that Democrats should instead pursue a broader strategy of electing more candidates who share her views, rather than focus on elevating her.
That way, she reasoned, left-leaning legislation such as a higher federal minimum wage, Medicare for All and her signature Green New Deal climate plan would each have a better chance of becoming law.
Nevertheless, D.C. is hearing chatter that Ocasio-Cortez may look to replace an “establishment” Democratic leader such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the years ahead, the Insider reported.
Pelosi will turn 81 years old on March 26 – nearly a full half-century older that Ocasio-Cortez, who turned 31 in October.
In November, Pelosi reaffirmed that her new four-year term as speaker – which started in January – would be her last. The pledge came as Democrats were considering formal term limits for their top three leaders in Congress.
The plan was ultimately tabled, but Pelosi said she would adhere to it anyway.
“What I said then is, whether it passes or not, I will abide by those limits that are there,” Pelosi said then, according to Roll Call.
Schumer, meanwhile, has embraced more progressive stands in recent years, possibly as a defense against a possible Senate primary challenge from Ocasio-Cortez in their home state, Politico noted in February.
The majority leader’s recent left-leaning moves have included supporting the cancelation of student debt by executive order, voting against the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade and claiming nothing was “off the table” regarding elimination of the filibuster, the report said.
But Jim Kessler, a former Schumer aide, told Business Insider this week that the majority leader’s actions had little to do with a possible challenge from Ocasio-Cortez.
Schumer has “always had an excellent relationship with the progressives in the Democratic Party in New York, and the centrists in the Democratic Party in New York,” Kessler insisted. “That was always a hallmark of him. … Schumer has said on several occasions, ‘The world has changed. I’ve changed too.’ And he has always been a politician who is keenly attuned to what is happening in America and his state and adjusts accordingly, not just for political reasons, but intellectual reasons.”
In December, Ocasio-Cortez asserted that the Democratic Party needs to overhaul its leadership but she warned of a possible power “vacuum,” claiming the party establishment has failed to groom a next generation of leaders.
“My concern — and I acknowledge this as a failing, as something that we need to sort out — is that there isn’t a plan,” she said at the time in a podcast interview with The Intercept. “How do we fill that vacuum? Because if you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse. And so, the actual sad state of affairs is that there are folks more conservative than even they are willing to kind of fill that void.”
The lack of leadership opportunities, she said then, ultimately pushes talented newcomers to leave Capitol Hill or to run for statewide office instead.
But as she told Business Insider, bringing about change means drawing on efforts from a broader group of people than just a handful of leaders.
“We can’t just pull a lever and say, ‘Why isn’t anything changing?’ Democracy takes more than that,” she told the news outlet. “Everybody needs to step it up — everybody.”
“You don’t elect four people and think this country changes like that,” she added later. “It takes that, and it takes a whole new generation of people up and down the ballot.”
Fox News’ Megan Henney contributed to this story.