In a new CNN op-ed published on Monday, progressive lawmakers in the House explain their caucus’s vote-withholding strategy to get the Build Back Better bill passed, emphasizing the necessity of the provisions within the package.
Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), Katie Porter (D-California) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) wrote in the article that President Joe Biden’s “build back better” message touting equity and investments in the future is “our shared vision — the vision the American people voted for.”
They go on to outline why members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus want both the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act to pass simultaneously. Due to the machinations of conservative Democrats in the House who are determined to cut or kill the Build Back Better bill, progressives have had to strategize, withholding their votes for the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the reconciliation package isn’t passed first.
“We must deliver for American families,” they write. “Our Progressive Caucus members will put our votes on the line to send the entirety of the Build Back Better agenda to President Biden’s desk.”
Without the passage of the Build Back Better plan, the progressives say that the American public would only receive a “fraction” of Democrats’ agenda. “We hear remarkable consistency in our communities’ concerns,” they wrote, outlining widespread issues like climate disaster, unaffordable child care, crumbling public housing infrastructure, the criminalization of immigrants and exorbitant drug prices.
The Build Back Better bill addresses these concerns and incorporates many of the proposals that Biden had introduced this fall. But due to lobbyists, dark money and the Democratic Party’s right wingers, the bill — and Democrats’ chances of passing their own agenda — is in danger. And despite progressive and Democratic leadership’s commitment to passing the bills together, conservative Democrats are threatening the bipartisan infrastructure bill as well.
The lawmakers emphasized that the progressive caucus supports the passage of both bills and pushed back on conservative Democrats’ notion that the party should delay talks for the reconciliation bill.
“Let us be clear: our caucus supports the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. We see the harms that crumbling roads, structurally deficient bridges, and lead-poisoned water have on our communities,” they wrote. “But equally necessary are the child care, elder care, health care, housing, education and climate actions currently included in the Build Back Better Act. Without both the infrastructure bill and the budget bill, our economic recovery will be slow, unstable, and weak.”
Part of why progressives and Democrats are facing such resistance to the reconciliation bill is because of an “all-out” lobbyist effort, Jayapal, Porter and Omar point out. The conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched six-figure ad campaigns, while the pharmaceutical industry has spent millions just to cut down efforts to rein in absurdly high drug prices.
These lobbyists appear to have already influenced members of the Democratic party. Three democratic representatives, some with documented cash flow from the pharmaceutical industry, have shot down House plans to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices — a policy that progressives note is desperately needed in the U.S.
Though the future of the Build Back Better bill is fraught with uncertainty, the progressive strategy appears to be working for now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has delayed a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill despite efforts from conservative Democrats, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey), to force a vote by September 27.
Though the vote-withholding strategy has come largely from House progressives, last week 11 senators issued a statement supporting the representatives’ efforts.
“We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track. Abandoning the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act and passing the infrastructure bill first would be in violation of that agreement,” the lawmakers, including Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Jeff Merkely (D-Oregon), wrote.