Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is planning to visit Kentucky soon despite being uninvited by one of the state’s Republican members of Congress.
Corbin Trent, a spokeswoman for the New York congresswoman, told CNN on Friday that they’ve been invited by other Kentuckians and that plans are in the works for a visit to the Bluegrass State on their own, though the exact timing is unclear.
“Luckily, we still have open borders with Kentucky, we are free to travel there,” Trent said. “We hope to visit and have a town hall, listen to concerns of workers in Kentucky.”
In a spirited House Financial Services Committee hearing last month, Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, invited Ocasio-Cortez to his home state to see the impact her Green New Deal proposal would have on coal miners.
“I want to invite the gentlelady to come to eastern Kentucky where thousands of coal miners no longer have paychecks,” he said. “I invite her to go underground with me and meet the men and women who do heroic work to power the American economy.”
Ocasio-Cortez was quick to take him up on the offer.
“I’d be happy to,” she said, adding her proposal calls for “fully funding the pensions of coal miners in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia because we want a just transition to make sure that we’re investing in jobs across those swaths of the country.”
Last week, however, Barr appeared to rescind his invitation, calling on Ocasio-Cortez to apologize to fellow GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas before any potential Kentucky trip.
Jodi Whitaker, Barr’s spokeswoman, said Barr was simply making a suggestion for Ocasio-Cortez to apologize, not placing any preconditions on her visit. The invitation still stands even if the congresswoman refuses to give an apology, Whitaker said.
Crenshaw was one of the first high-profile Republicans to draw attention to a comment by one of Ocasio-Cortez’s closes allies in Congress – Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar – about the 9/11 attacks, which some found offensive. Crenshaw called Omar’s comment “unbelievable” on Twitter and accused her of minimizing the tragedy, a tweet that further inflamed the conservative backlash against Omar that was already brewing.
Defending Omar, Ocasio-Cortez blasted Crenshaw for refusing to co-sponsor the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and called on him to “do something” about domestic terrorism. That, in turn, prompted outrage from critics who pointed out that Crenshaw is a former NAVY seal who served three tours in Afghanistan and lost his eye from an improvised explosive device while fighting terrorism.
Barr, in a letter delivered to Ocasio-Cortez and posted on Twitter, called on the congresswoman to apologize first “prior to coming to visit Kentucky,” saying her comment demonstrated a “lack of civility.”
Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t apologized and her office said she does not intend to do so.
“We definitely think there is an apology in order, but we think it is from Crenshaw to Congresswoman Omar,” said Trent, Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman.
The congresswoman says the move was a sign that Republicans were having second thoughts about Ocasio-Cortez coming to Kentucky.
“GOP’s getting scared that up close, their constituents will realize I’m fighting harder for their health care than their own Reps,” she tweeted.
She also tweeted this week that she invited Barr to a town hall she did with MSNBC in New York at the end of March, but that he declined, saying the University of Kentucky had a game that night.
A spokesperson for Barr did not respond to a request for comment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, was asked about the sparring in a news conference on Thursday.
“It’s not up to me, I didn’t issue such an invitation,” the Republican senator said. “It will be interesting if she does, in fact, come.”
This story has been updated.