Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is urging progressives in the House of Representatives to stand firm in withholding their votes on the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill until a sweeping $3.5 trillion social spending bill is passed as Democrat leaders scramble to rally support around a measure slated to come to the floor on Thursday.
Sanders (I-Vt.) took to social media to assert that liberals will lose leverage on the larger package to address some of the Biden administration’s top social spending priorities including climate change and the expansion of so-called safety net programs including Medicare if the “hard infrastructure” bill is passed first.
“Let’s be crystal clear. If the bipartisan infrastructure bill is passed on its own on Thursday, this will be in violation of an agreement that was reached within the Democratic Caucus in Congress. More importantly, it will end all leverage that we have to pass a major reconciliation bill,” he tweeted in a clear message to the progressive, left-leaning Squad members that have increasingly wielded power in the House, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
“That means there will be no serious effort to address the long-neglected crises facing the working families of our country, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor.It also means that Congress will continue to ignore the existential threat to our country and planet with regard to climate change.I strongly urge my House colleagues to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill until Congress passes a strong reconciliation bill.”
The push comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decoupled the two measures, telling members of her caucus the social spending bill is not ready to move forward as she teed up a vote on the bipartisan bill.
House Democratic leaders have urged liberal members to get behind the Senate-passed bill, noting that the current Highway Trust Fund is set to expire on Thursday.
But progressives have scoffed at the move, warning Pelosi that they will tank the bipartisan bill without the passage of a social spending bill, with some calling for moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to provide details on what they will accept.
“Moving forward without the Build Back Better Act would put long-overdue investments in child care, paid leave, health care, affordable housing, pre-k, community college, climate action, and a roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS recipients, and essential workers at risk Our Progressive Caucus members remain clear: we will not allow this process to be dictated by special interests and corporations at the expense of women, working families, and our communities. We will not leave anyone behind,” Jayapal said in a statement.
“… It was committed to in a deal among Senators when they passed the infrastructure bill in that chamber — a commitment reiterated just last week. We articulated this position more than three months ago, and today it is still unchanged: progressives will vote for both bills, but a majority of our members will only vote for the infrastructure bill after the President’s visionary Build Back Better Act passes.”
Moderates have expressed confidence in Pelosi’s ability to garner the support needed for passage, with Problem Solvers Caucus Chairman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) stating he believes both Pelosi and the White House are working toward ensuring passage on Thursday.
“I really do believe that Speaker Pelosi is excellent at uniting the party. And so I believe in uniting the caucus and I believe that’s what will happen,” he said.
Both Manchin and Sinema were at the White House on Tuesday, but have not revealed their topline numbers.
Manchin called on far-left moderates to pass the measure, asserting that the larger reconciliation bill would be negotiated “in good faith” even with the passage of the bipartisan bill.
“Best piece of legislation we’ve had in 30 years as far as taking care of the deferred maintenance we’ve let go for that long and helps everybody in every state. I don’t know how anyone could vote against that, you know, and then we vote in good faith and work in good faith towards the other bill so we can come to an agreement on, but man, holding one hostage over the other is not fair, it’s not right. It’s not good for the country,” he told reporters.
“They have a right to do whatever they think and that’s a political agenda. I’m looking at the needs of our country,” my state needs its bridges fixed, it needs roads, we need internet service desperately.”