Frosh Dems rock Capitol boat with brash, confrontational style

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar are not trying to avoid the spotlight.

Unlike other freshman lawmakers trying to learn the ropes of Congress first, the three high-profile House Democrats are attracting immense media attention for their embrace of left-wing politics and, in the case of Tlaib and Omar, for being the first female Muslims elected to Congress.

They're also stoking controversy with inflammatory comments they often have to walk back, clarify or defend from fact-checkers. And, in some cases, they are rankling party leadership.


No one makes national headlines like Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old who shockingly defeated then-Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York Democratic primary last summer and coasted to victory in November in a heavily Democrat district. Since being sworn in, Ocasio-Cortez has used her national platform to advocate for Democratic socialist priorities, fire back at critics and trade barbs with journalists.

"They’ll tell you you’re too loud - that you need to wait your turn; and ask the right people for permission. Do it anyway," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted last year.

It was clear when Ocasio-Cortez arrived on Capitol Hill for freshman orientation after being elected in November that she wouldn’t be a typical lawmaker: she joined a protest outside Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s office to push for congressional action on climate change. She has also made dubious claims, including saying “the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”

At times, she’s been a thorn in the side of Democratic leadership: last week, she was the only House Democrat to vote against a bill to end the partial government shutdown on the grounds that the proposal would fund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and border security.

At other instances, Ocasio-Cortez has signaled she’s interested in being a team player, teaching a class to all Democratic members about how to use Twitter.

Like the president, Ocasio-Cortez uses Twitter to pushback on news stories she doesn’t like. Earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez lashed out at fact-checkers, accusing them of “false equivalency” and “bias” toward her in their columns examining her statements. Her argument was not so much that the columns were wrong but that they should be scrutinizing the Trump White House more--complaining that PolitiFact fact-checked her the “same” amount of times as Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary.


Meanwhile, Omar of Minnesota has gotten herself into numerous controversies since her election for inflammatory comments about Republicans.

Just last week, Omar deleted a tweet about the Covington Catholic student controversy after facing a social media backlash and accusations that she was distorting the facts of the case.

Then Omar came under fire several days later after accusing Trump of backing a “coup” in Venezuela to “install a far-right opposition.”

And then a report emerged the same week indicating Omar once asked a judge to show leniency toward a group of Minnesota men accused of trying to join the Islamic State terror group.

She also made news for refusing to back down from her claim that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham must be "compromised" because of his support for the president.

Omar later pushed back against the criticism over her Graham comments, denying she was pushing an unfounded conspiracy theory. “Y’all know my tweet had nothing to do with his sexuality and everything to do with his blind cooperation w/ Trump,” she tweeted.

Like Omar, Tlaib has found herself in hot water, most famously with her profanity-infused call to impeach Trump on her first day in office.

“People love you and you win,” a video showed Tlaib saying. “And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t, because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherf--ker.’”

Days later, Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, came under fire again for suggesting that Senate Republicans were more loyal to Israel than the U.S., saying, “They forgot what country they represent.”

The accusation that Jewish politicians could be vulnerable to having "dual loyalties" has been made for centuries in various contexts, and has been seen widely as a religious-based attack.

Tlaib responded to the outcry over her comments about impeaching Trump by explaining, "What I can tell you is I am a person that is authentically me. I’m very passionate about fighting for all of us, and the use of that language, you know, was a teachable moment for me."

She added: “And I understand I am a member of Congress, and I don’t want anything that I do or say distract us. And that’s the only thing I will apologize for, is that it was a distraction."

The tactics of Ocasio Cortez, in particular, have given rise to worries from other Democrats that she will use her platform to attack Democrats – as she pushes the party to move to the left.

“I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people,” Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver recently told Politico. “We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.”

Another House Democrat, given anonymity by Politico, put it this way: “She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star? There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.”

Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis, Gregg Re and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.