Her comments prompted a rebuke on Tuesday from Biden, who said in response to a question that she should “look at my record” as he once again defended himself against accusations from within his party that he would adopt too moderate a position on an urgent global problem.
The dispute represents a striking display of the divisions between the center and the left of the Democratic Party, embodied in the quintessential Beltway veteran, Biden, and the progressive newcomer, Ocasio-Cortez.
Biden has been under fire from his party’s left flank, including from Ocasio-Cortez and several of his presidential rivals, after a Reuters report last week in which Biden was described as seeking a middle ground to combat climate change. His campaign has said the report mischaracterized his position, and Tuesday morning he directly answered some of the criticism.
“You’ve never heard me say ‘middle of the road,’ I’ve never been middle of the road on the environment,” Biden said when asked to respond to comments Ocasio-Cortez issued the night before. “And, tell her to check, you know, the statement that I made and look at my record, she’ll find that nobody has been more consistent about taking on the environment and the green revolution than I have.”
Those remarks came in response to a reporter who read aloud some of Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, which she made Monday night at a rally in support of a sweeping environmental proposal known as the Green New Deal.
After listing a series of past abuses related to the environment, Ocasio-Cortez issued what was widely interpreted as an indictment of Biden. “I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives,” she said. “That is too much for me.”
In style and on many policy issues, Biden is campaigning as a centrist in a sprawling field that features a number of candidates from the progressive left, who are advocating substantive change. He said recently that he did not believe the Democratic electorate had moved as far left as many in the party assume.
During his New Hampshire swing this week, Biden pledged to release more details on his environmental proposals by the end of the month, and detailed his record on combating climate change dating to the 1980s. He also spent time, both in conversations with reporters and unprompted on the stump, casting himself as a longtime champion of the environment and defending his record on climate change, a key issue to many progressive voters.
Pressed on whether his future policies would be sufficiently bold for progressives, Biden expressed confidence: “Yeah I do, I do,” he said.
“It’s a long campaign,” he went on. “And everybody should, they should calm down a little bit. Take a look at the record. There’s nothing middle-of-the-road about my efforts dealing with the environment. Nothing.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.