Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday reiterated that progressive House Democrats will not support President Joe Biden's "tiny, pathetic" bipartisan infrastructure plan unless Senate Democrats approve a more robust reconciliation package that prioritizes mitigating the climate crisis and strengthening the care economy.
"House progressives are standing up," Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted. "If Sen. Manchin and the rest of the Senate approve the 'reconciliation bill' then we will approve their bipartisan bill. But if they try to strip immigration reform, child care, climate action, etc., then we're at an impasse."
When Biden unveiled his roughly $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan in March, progressives argued that the administration's initial proposal was "woefully inadequate" and demanded $10 trillion worth of investments in physical and social infrastructure over a decade to reduce the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases as well as worsening inequality.
In addition to cutting most climate funding, the authors of the bipartisan deal declined to raise revenue through tax hikes on wealthy households and corporations. Instead, they proposed financing the plan by repurposing unspent unemployment insurance funds, reducing the IRS tax gap, and utilizing public-private partnerships and asset recycling.
Progressive advocacy groups warned that the latter two pay-fors are Wall Street-friendly mechanisms that would lay the groundwork for the widespread privatization of public goods. Climate justice champions, meanwhile, denounced the Biden-brokered plan for caving to fossil fuel industry lobbying and disregarding the climate emergency, with Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) labeling it the "Exxon infrastructure deal."
Progressives are attempting to remedy the bipartisan framework's omissions with a separate multitrillion-dollar bill—which includes aspects of the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan, and more—that will move through the budget reconciliation process.
During a virtual town hall event on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez noted that "people across the country elected Democratic majorities" to control both chambers of Congress, along with the White House.
"Republicans are not in charge of dictating what policies we pass and what policies we don't pass. And the idea that we would be limited by a bipartisan deal is laughable."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
"What that means," she emphasized, "is that Republicans are not in charge of dictating what policies we pass and what policies we don't pass. And the idea that we would be limited by a bipartisan deal is laughable."
Last month, immediately after the bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement on infrastructure, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other Democratic Party leaders stated that they intended to move that narrow deal—which excluded most progressive initiatives—"in tandem" with a bigger, partisan plan that included more green social spending and could be passed by a simple majority through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.
Some Senate Republicans who worked on the bipartisan plan threatened to withdraw their support when Biden said he would only sign the compromise bill if it was accompanied by a broader legislative package opposed by the GOP, prompting the president to walk back his vow of a two-track approach to infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats forged ahead to develop a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would raise taxes on the rich to fund an expansion of clean energy and the social safety net. When the legislative package was unveiled on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) described it as a "big deal."
Although the spending blueprint is not subject to the Senate's anti-democratic filibuster rule, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to advance most legislation, its passage still depends on securing the support of every member of the Democratic caucus, given the party's razor-thin, 50-50 majority in the upper chamber.
According to Ocasio-Cortez, progressive Democratic lawmakers in the House will vote for the bipartisan infrastructure deal as long as Senate Democrats pass a reconciliation bill that includes substantial investments in expanding Medicare, child care, elder care, affordable housing, renewables, and other measures to improve the lives of working people.
If, however, the Senate Democrats who collaborated with Republicans to strip progressive priorities from Biden's original infrastructure proposals try to remove measures enhancing social welfare, immigrant rights, and climate action from the recently unveiled spending framework, then progressives will "tank" the bipartisan plan, said Ocasio-Cortez.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a major beneficiary of the coal industry and one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, expressed concerns earlier this week about the climate provisions in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, but according to The Hill, the lawmaker has indicated that he does not plan to undermine the budget resolution on which Biden's legislative agenda depends.
Ocasio-Cortez argued that congressional Democrats' slim, four-vote majority in the House gives leverage to the party's more left-leaning members.
The New York Democrat said that several lawmakers are prepared to withhold their support of the bipartisan infrastructure deal favored by Manchin and other so-called "moderates" in order to ensure that all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus stay in line to pass a reconciliation bill that "actually meets our country's larger needs."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Kenny Stancil.