Congress

Andy Barr invites Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to ‘go underground’ and tour a coal mine

Coming soon to an eastern Kentucky coal mine: Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kentucky Republican Rep. Andy Barr, who has championed the coal industry, Tuesday invited the New York Democrat — whose signature Green New Deal aims to tackle climate change — to “go underground” with him.

He wants her to meet miners. Thousands, he said, are out of work.

Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the Bronx and Queens, accepted the invitation.

“I invite her to go underground with me and meet the men and women who do heroic work to power the American economy,” Barr said, adding that he wants her to meet with coal miners “who will tell you what the Green New Deal would mean for their families, their paychecks.’’

The Green New Deal seeks to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources, including wind and solar power. It’s likely to go nowhere; Tuesday, it failed to get enough votes in the Senate to limit debate, effectively dooming the legislation for now.

Ocasio-Cortez told Barr she’d be “happy” to tour a coal mine, noting that she went to Kentucky when she first began her campaign. And she noted, the Green New Deal would fully fund coal miners’ pensions across Appalachia.

“We want a just transition to make sure we are investing in jobs across those swaths of the country,” she said.

The hospitable exchange between the self-professed democratic socialist and Barr, a member of the Congressional Coal Caucus, came during an otherwise contentious moment Tuesday at a House Financial Services Committee meeting.

Barr spoke after Ocasio-Cortez lambasted his Republican colleague, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin, for saying the Green New Deal would make housing more expensive for the poor and homeless.

“If you’re a rich liberal from maybe New York or California, it sounds great because you can afford to retrofit your home or build a new home that’s energy efficient,” Duffy said.

A furious Ocasio-Cortez shot back.

“This is not an elitist issue, this is a quality of life issue,” she said. “People are dying. This is serious. This is about our constituents and all of our lives.”

Barr’s invite came as he said he believed Ocasio-Cortez’s interest was “heartfelt” and that he appreciated her “passion for working Americans and the need to provide for a future of prosperity for working Americans.”

There are no active mines in Barr’s district, but there are in eastern Kentucky, including in neighboring Rep. Hal Rogers’ district. Efforts to shield the coal industry from further decline and to aid miners and their families remain a potent issue for many voters, particularly in the rural counties outside Lexington.

in 2012, as he challenged Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler, Barr successfully tied the incumbent to then-President Barack Obama, repeatedly underscoring Chandler’s support in 2009 for the Obama-backed “cap and trade” bill that angered coal officials by seeking to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal-powered plants.

The measure stalled in the Senate and never became law. In one Barr campaign ad, a man dressed as a coal miner called Chandler a “lowlife.”

Tuesday’s televised invite came as Barr’s Kentucky counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, sought to put Senate Democratic presidential contenders in a bind by forcing the vote Tuesday on the Green New Deal. The five Senate Democrats running for the presidential nomination and nearly all of their party colleagues voted “present” on the effort to limit debate, meaning they were around but did not have to go on record as a yes or a no.

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