As Biden Prepares to Unveil Infrastructure Plan, Progressives Push $10 Trillion Investment – Jessica Corbett (04/01/2021)

With President Joe Biden set to start unveiling his two-part infrastructure plan later this week, congressional progressives on Monday officially announced their proposal to invest $10 trillion over the next decade in renewable energy, green buildings, and environmental justice initiatives while creating over 15 million well-paying union jobs.

Building on the introduction last September of a resolution “recognizing the duty of the federal government to implement an agenda to Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE),” key Democrats have joined with climate, labor, racial justice, and other groups to push for the major investment.

“The THRIVE Act is the agenda that establishes the pillars for economic renewal in our country,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a lead sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, told HuffPost. “This bill lays out a plan for massive job creation within the United States, so that a younger generation of Americans can think of these jobs as careers.”

Markey—who led the Green New Deal resolution with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in February 2019—participated in a press conference Monday to discuss the proposal. During the event, he declared that “in order to survive, we need everyone, especially our frontline communities and communities of color, to thrive.”

As the nation’s top public health experts expressed concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has notably impacted the jobs and incomes of many, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), another lead sponsor of the THRIVE Act, emphasized the need to “rebuild our country’s economy with a focus on justice and healing.”

The other lead sponsors are Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), and Nanette Barragán (Calif.), according to the Green New Deal Network, a coalition of advocacy groups and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which helped craft the proposal.

Half of the bill’s spending would go toward communities most impacted by the fossil fuel industry, HuffPost reported Sunday. The outlet added:

On Friday evening, lawmakers were still working out the exact language, but the bill is expected to set up paid committees that would include representatives of those communities to oversee where the money goes. It also mandates that the federal government respect the sovereignty of Indigenous tribes.

The bill would establish a goal of 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2035, zero emissions from new buildings by 2025, and extending clean public transit options to the majority of Americans by 2030, and it would mandate Congress direct much of its spending toward those aims.

The youth-led Sunrise Movement, a key backer of the Green New Deal, put out a statement Monday in which press secretary Ellen Sciales expressed solidarity with the THRIVE Act.

“Biden has a historic opportunity in front of him to pass an FDR-style infrastructure package that jump-starts our economy to support working people, create good jobs, and combat climate change—and there’s too much at stake for him to squander it,” said Sciales. “If Biden is serious about building back better, he must act on the climate mandate he was elected on and invest at least $1 trillion per year over the next decade to meet the scale and urgency of the crises we face. In the last year of World War II, America spent 40% of our GDP in one year on the war—equivalent to $8.5 trillion in 2021 alone. The task of transforming our economy and rescuing our planet from the brink of collapse are just as existential to our country now as the war effort was then.”

Sciales called a $10 trillion investment over 10 years “the minimum” of what is needed now and noted that Congress recently passed the president’s Covid-19 relief package without Republican support. She said that “Biden must build on his momentum and deliver a groundbreaking infrastructure package that puts people to work in the national interest and halts the climate crisis—no matter what. If Republicans don’t want to get on board, he must do it without them. If the filibuster gets in the way of passing what’s needed, Senate Democrats must abolish it.”

Amid of a wave of state-level GOP attacks on voting rights, Biden last week reiterated his support for a return to the talking filibuster and signaled for the first time that he may be open to go further in the face of Republican obstruction. The president on Wednesday is set to start revealing an infrastructure and jobs package that, as the Washington Post reported Monday, could include “as much as $4 trillion in new spending and more than $3 trillion in tax increases.”

The first part of Biden’s plan is expected to focus on physical infrastructure, from bridges and ports to railways and water systems, as well as clean energy, electric vehicles, manufacturing, and research and development, according to the Post and other outlets. Part two, set to be unveiled in April, will reportedly focus on child care, healthcare, and paid leave, among other provisions. To address the costs, the White House is considering various tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations.

Reporting early last week that the Biden administration was planning to only propose a $3 trillion investment for the full package was met with disappointment. Critics including Sciales pointed out that even Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, has called for up to $4 trillion in such spending. She urged the president to do what is “vital for the future of our society and our planet.”

Following those reports last week, the Sunrise Movement officially launched its Good Jobs for All Pledge, calling for “legislation that guarantees good jobs for all, invests $10 trillion over the next decade to create millions of union jobs addressing the crises of climate change, economic inequality, and systemic racism, and puts money into the hands of people and communities, not the wealthy few.”

The pledge’s initial signatories include two THRIVE Act leaders—Markey and Bowman—as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Sunrise is also supporting the BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act, introduced earlier this month by Markey, Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.).

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