After receiving a personalized invite from Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), the champion of the Green New Deal is heading into (slightly) unfamiliar territory. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will visit coal country with Barr at an undisclosed date in the future, according to an interview she gave with McClatchy on Wednesday. The exchange was rather heartwarming, too, per the publication: Barr said he genuinely appreciates her "passion for working Americans," and Ocasio-Cortez said she'd be "happy" to take a tour.
According to The Lexington Herald Leader, Barr invited Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday, during a House Financial Services Committee meeting — the same meeting where Ocasio-Cortez gave a speech about how ridiculous it was to call climate change concerns "elitist." Barr brought up the idea after she gave that speech, saying in part, per the publication, “I invite her to go underground with me and meet the men and women who do heroic work to power the American economy...who will tell you what the Green New Deal would mean for their families, their paychecks.’’
In response, Ocasio-Cortez said she'd be "happy" to take a tour of a coal mine with him, The Lexington Herald Leader reports. She further pointed out that the Green New Deal would include pensions for coal miners across Appalachia, saying, "We want a just transition to make sure we are investing in jobs across those swaths of the country."
Ocasio-Cortez also revealed something about herself that many people probably don't know: She has a personal connection to people living in Appalachia, in a way. She said (via McClatchy), “[That area is] very close to my heart. Folks may not think of that because I’m from the Bronx, but my family in Puerto Rico was a rural family too. I understand some of the challenges.” She also noted that this won't be her first visit to Kentucky, as she met with a number of grassroots organizations in Lexington when she was considering a congressional run.
Per McClatchy, Barr said on Tuesday that he invited Ocasio-Cortez to go "underground" because he appreciated her "passion about the issue,” and thought it was "heartfelt.” Then, on Wednesday, per the publication, Barr explained his decision a little bit further. He said, “I want her to learn about the coal industry the way I have learned about the coal industry, not through textbooks, not through politically charged movies, but by talking to human beings."
He added, "[Coal] should have a future in the United States, not withstanding her proposal."
The status of the coal industry has been a topic of national conversation throughout Trump's presidency, largely because of the fact that it was one of his main talking points on the 2016 campaign trail. However, he has begun to discuss it less and less frequently in recent months; he didn't mention coal once in his 2019 State of the Union Address, as The Washington Post notes. The closest he came to discussing the industry was when he brought up other similar ones, saying at one point, per The Post, "The United States is now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy."
Still, it seems all but inevitable that the coal industry will fall under the spotlight once more when AOC takes a visit, at the very least.