Gabbard, the Hawaii Democrat and presidential hopeful, surprised Ocasio-Cortez when she chose not to take a side on such a monumental issue of impeachment.
“Today was very consequential, and to not take a stand one way or another, on a day of such great consequence to this country, I think is quite difficult,” Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said after the votes. “We are sent here to lead.”
Gabbard skipped the procedural votes in the morning and just as the first vote on impeachment for abuse of power was winding down, Gabbard stunned with her lone “present” vote. She followed with a second “present” vote on obstruction of Congress.
“Whenever we have a vote, we should vote ‘yes’ and we should vote ‘no,’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Voting ‘present’ is a very tough position to be in. To not take a stand in a moment that is so consequential, I think it’s quite difficult.
She continued, “I'm sure she'll be answering [questions] and discussing her rationale in the days ahead.”
Ocasio-Cortez has supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2020 presidential race and suggested Gabbard’s non-committal votes could be a factor in the primary election.
“That’s certainly something that voters will decide. I know a lot of Democrats and just a lot of Americans believe that this president must be held accountable,” the New York Democrat said.
Ocasio-Cortez spoke briefly to reporters outside the Capitol after the impeachment votes as she held her green voting cards she had just used to vote ‘yes’ on the two articles of impeachment against Trump.
The New York Democrat was greeted by well-wishers wanting photos Wednesday night, but she quickly had to bolt to an awaiting car when a couple of Trump supporters started screaming at her. The men in red caps briefly tussled with her supporters and yelled: “Shame on you, AOC,” and, “You are a traitor to this country!”
Gabbard put out a long statement explaining her present votes as wanting to “make a stand for the center.”
She wrote, “After doing my due diligence in reviewing the 658-page impeachment report, I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no.”
Gabbard added: “I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing.
“I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”