New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed to have made a payment on her student loans during a House Financial Services Committee hearing Tuesday in an attempt to highlight the widespread burden of student debt.
"I literally made a student loan payment while I was sitting here at this chair, and I looked at my balance, and it was $20,237.16," Ocasio-Cortez said on Tuesday in the middle of the hearing. "I just made a payment that took me down to $19,000 so I feel really accomplished right now."
Ocasio-Cortez, who is known for her theatrics during committee hearings, criticized her Republican colleagues for not doing enough to relieve the estimated $1.5 trillion in student debt owed in the United States.
"I'm hearing people on this committee say it's not our job," she said. "This is our job."
Interestingly, Ocasio-Cortez reported a wage of $26,581 in 2017. While her salary has grown more than 550% since she was elected to the United States Congress, the self-proclaimed "radical" congresswoman has apparently still not paid down her student loans.
Ocasio-Cortez has been an outspoken advocate of passing legislation to eliminate student loan debt for the majority of Americans, including her own. While speaking at a press conference to announce college affordability legislation in June, Ocasio-Cortez contended that it is easier for her to do something that was "nearly impossible" than to pay off her debt.
"I have student loans, too," she told reporters at the time. "And I think it's so funny [that] a year ago I was waiting tables in a restaurant and it was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt."
"So that should tell you everything about the state of this, of this – of our economy and of the state of quality of life for working people," she continued. "Because in order for me to get a chance to have health care, in order for me to get a chance to pay off my student loans, I had to do something that was nearly impossible. And I don’t think that that is the bar through which a person should be able to access education, health care, and a bevy of other things that should be considered human rights."
Despite Ocasio-Cortez's five-figure debt, the New York congresswoman made the decision to move into an ultra-luxury apartment in one of Washington D.C.’s priciest neighborhoods.
Prior to her congressional salary kicking in, Ocasio-Cortez expressed concern with finding an affordable apartment. However, the newly constructed building that she settled on in the District’s Navy Yard offers a wide array of amenities and the cheapest unit starts at more than $1,800 per month for a studio.
"Tenants have access to private massage rooms, state-of-the-art hydrotherapy beds, saunas, a 25-meter indoor lap pool, a full-scale kitchen with wood-fired pizza oven, a rooftop pool with view of the Capitol, a fireside lounge featuring a Steinway & Sons player piano, a Peloton cycling studio, and a PGA-grade golf simulation lounge that allows users to play virtually on the world’s most exclusive golf courses," according to The Washington Examiner.
Ocasio-Cortez is reportedly one of nearly 70 members of Congress who are still paying off student loans for themselves or a dependent. It is not uncommon for lawmakers to sleep in their offices or room with their colleagues in order to save money.