/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised for “transparency” over Congress budget and intern pay

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised for “transparency” over Congress budget and intern pay

New York Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has received praise for her “transparency” after the politician took the time to explain to Twitter users how her operating budget will work.

After Ocasio-Cortez confirmed on the social media site that she plans to “walk the walk” when it comes to fair pay for her interns, she faced questions about how congress members’ operating budgets actually work.

“Time to walk the walk,” AOC, as the New York politician is known to supporters, wrote in a Tuesday night tweet. “Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns. We will be one of them.” 

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U.S. Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) reacts after drawing a lottery number for her new office on Capitol Hill November 30, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Ocasio-Cortez is receiving praise for her transparency about how her operating budget will work. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

A Twitter user responded to the statement, asking: “Could you explain how this goes? Does each Congressperson get a budget for their entire staff and they just divide larger amounts to senior staff and forego paying interns? Or?”

While fellow social media users quickly chimed in to provide answers, Ocasio-Cortez responded to the user with her own explanation. 

“Each member of Congress gets around $1.2 million (give or take a bit) for their entire operating budget,” AOC wrote, in response to the tweet. 

“That’s supposed to cover all salaries (D.C. and district), rents for district offices, travel home, tech devices, services, contracts, etc. Members decide how it’s all spent,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

“There’s a little wiggle room,” the representative-elect said in a second tweet. “Everyone isn’t given the same exact amount, but it’s pretty close.” 

“If you’re from a district with high transportation costs, high rents (urban/suburban areas), or both, it can have the potential to pressure wages downwards for similar operations,” she added. 

Asked by another Twitter user whether the politician plans to “be transparent and publish the salaries you pay out and the salary you take home?” AOC responded: “If I’m not mistaken, this information is publicly disclosed for all members.”

Ocasio-Cortez received high praise for her honesty, with some social media users saying the information she shared had been previously unknown to them. 

“Never-ever knew that. Thank you for the education and transparency!!!” one Twitter user wrote.

“Thank you for breaking this down,” another said. “I’ve always wondered how this was covered.”

“Thanks for sharing this stuff,” a third person chimed in. “The transparency is nice.”

Another wrote of AOC that “regardless of what anyone thinks of her politics, I’m finding her going over the nuts and bolts of becoming a member of Congress oddly interesting.” 

“I, for one, appreciate your openness and responsiveness, it’s a welcome breeze of hope,” another Twitter user said, before thanking Ocasio-Cortez “for reminding ‘US’ how government works and giving a voice to those of us who wish for a more inclusive and energetic vision–thank you!”

Ocasio-Cortez has also received applause over her decision to pay interns she hires a minimum of $15 per hour, a move that sets her apart from most Republican and even more Democratic representatives. 

A study by Pay Our Interns last year found that only 3.6 percent of interns for House Democrats were paid, while 8 percent of interns for House Republicans were being compensated for their work. 

Senators offered more paid internships, but even their numbers were relatively low, with 31 percent of Democrats paying interns and 51 percent of Republicans doing the same. 

While Ocasio-Cortez has been commended for her transparency over her own budget plans, the liberal has also taken heat this week after making what has been branded a “misleading” statement claiming that $21 trillion in misspent Pentagon funds could pay for “Medicare for all.”

The statement, which referenced an article published by left-wing magazine The Nation, quickly came under the scrutiny of The Washington Post‘s fact-checking team, which published a scathing report condemning the representative-elect’s comparison as “badly flawed.” 

As Post reporter Salvador Rizzo pointed out, the $21 trillion described the Nation report “is not one big pot of dormant money collecting dust somewhere. It’s the sum of all transactions—both inflows and outflows—for which the Defense Department did not have adequate documentation.”

Rizzo also noted that given that the $21 trillion figure covers 17 years of Pentagon Activity, while the Urban Institute’s oft-cited estimate for costs of the Medicare plan ($32 trillion) spans only 10 years, the two numbers are not comparable anyway. 

Ocasio-Cortez’s erroneous statement earned her “four Pinocchios” on the Post‘s Pinocchio rating scale, which means the representative-elect’s statement is considered a “whopper” when it comes to factual inaccuracy in the newspaper’s books.