GOP congressman warns fellow Republicans: Be careful messing with Ocasio-Cortez

A Kentucky Republican congressman is warning his colleagues that if they mess with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they could be inviting trouble.

“A lot of Republicans are making a mistake picking on her,” said Rep. James Comer.

He said the Bronx congresswoman is smart, has a “movement of millennials” and that Republicans should watch closely before tangling with her. Comer’s remarks came as he co-hosted “Hey Kentucky!” on Monday night and follow Rep. Andy Barr’s decision to invite the Bronx congresswoman to come to Kentucky to tour a coal mine.

Comer’s word of caution went viral Tuesday as Ocasio-Cortez retweeted one of Comer’s remarks, adding that the “GOP’s getting scared that up close, their constituents will realize I’m fighting harder for their healthcare than their own Reps.”

Comer shot back: “Lol, my constituents know that your Socialist policies like #MedicareForAll and #GreenNewDeal will not work.”

Barr last month invited Ocasio-Cortez to “go underground” into a Kentucky coal mine so that he can show the author of the Green New Deal what he says would be the “real life implications” of the climate change legislation that Republicans say would put coal miners out of business.

Comer said he understands why Barr wants to try to provide the Democratic legislator with an appreciation for coal, but added that he doesn’t see an “upside” to the visit.

“I think she’s pretty set in her ways,” Comer said.

Ocasio-Cortez told McClatchy that she considered the “economic and social dignity” of coal miners when she put the Green New Deal together, adding that she’s worried about the environmental effects in Central Appalachia of mountaintop removal mining.

Such mining involves explosive blasts that dislodge bedrock to allow access to coal seams, with debris dumped in adjoining valleys. The congresswoman has co-sponsored legislation championed by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, that would halt new mountaintop mining until the health effects are studied.

Ocasio-Cortez he has become the subject of endless Republican fascination. Comer said it was “fair game” for Republicans to criticize other Democratic freshmen, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, whom Republican critics have accused of belittling the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Omar has been lambasted by President Donald Trump for saying that “some people did something” as she talked about 9/11 and anti-Muslim sentiment.

But, Comer said Ocasio-Cortez has a “movement of millennials that follow her” and that she comes prepared to make her case at House committee meetings. She and Comer both are members of the House Oversight Committee.

“She is smart, and I think we need to be very prepared when we debate her on issues that we’re having a hard time with,” Comer said. “There’s still a future for coal but we need to make sure we’re debating the right people on that issue.”

After extending the invite, Barr last week called on Ocasio-Cortez to offer a mea culpa to Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, whom she chastised via Twitter after he criticized Omar.

Ocasio-Cortez asked via Twitter why Crenshaw, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, doesn’t “do something” about domestic terrorists. Barr said the comments “demonstrate a lack of civility that is becoming far too common in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez suggested an apology won’t be forthcoming and noted that the congresswoman could still come to Kentucky and meet with coal miners on her own.

Lesley Clark works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, covering all things Kentucky for McClatchy’s Lexington Herald-Leader. A former reporter for McClatchy’s Miami Herald, she also spent several years covering the White House.