Progressive frustration with the Democratic leadership’s slow-walking of climate and infrastructure legislation is reaching a boiling point this week as the Biden administration—wedded to the pursuit of a bipartisan bill—continues to hold out hope for a deal with Republican lawmakers, even as they put forth woefully inadequate counteroffers.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Evan Weber, political director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said Tuesday in response to a report indicating that Democrats—who narrowly control both chambers of Congress—don’t believe they can complete work on an infrastructure package by September 30, the end of the fiscal year.
“Now is the time to go big and bold. Mitch McConnell said 100% of his focus is on blocking this administration—so it’s time to move forward without Republicans.”
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal
“This is how you lose your majority,” Weber added.
Waleed Shahid, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, echoed Weber’s warning of potential voter backlash at the polls if Democrats fail to deliver on their promises.
“This is an impending disaster for Democrats,” Shahid tweeted.
The White House and Republican lawmakers have made no discernible progress in infrastructure talks since President Joe Biden unveiled his $2.2 trillion opening offer at the end of March, a package progressives criticized as insufficient. Late last week, as Common Dreams reported, Biden drew the ire of environmentalists and other critics by shaving $550 billion off his initial plan in a bid to attract GOP support.
But Republicans were nowhere near satisfied with the cut, which slashed proposed spending on manufacturing, research and development, broadband expansion, and other elements of the package.
On Thursday, as ABC News reported, “Senate Republicans intend to send President Joe Biden a nearly $1 trillion counterproposal on infrastructure spending” in the latest effort to work toward a bipartisan compromise before Biden’s soft Memorial Day deadline.
“Talks stalled Friday after Republicans flatly rejected a $1.7 trillion offer from the White House, a pared down version of Biden’s American Jobs Plan,” ABC noted. “Republicans opposed the overall price of the White House package, but also rejected the proposed White House funding mechanism.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)—the GOP’s lead infrastructure negotiator—have said Republicans are unwilling to accept any proposal that alters the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a key achievement of former President Donald Trump that predominately rewarded the rich and large corporations.
In the original version of the American Jobs Plan, Biden proposed hiking the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and the top individual tax rate from 37% to 39.6%.
“There is no chance 10 Senate Republicans will vote for any major [Democratic] bill—not infrastructure, not health, not climate, not immigration,” climate journalist David Roberts tweeted Tuesday. “It is wild how many people and institutions are involved in what is effectively an elaborate bit of theater, pretending otherwise.”
For weeks, progressive leaders in Congress have warned Biden that the GOP is not negotiating in good faith and urged the administration and Democratic leaders to go it alone on infrastructure using the budget reconciliation process, by which bills can pass with a simple-majority vote.
“Republicans aren’t interested in compromise. They never were,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Tuesday. “Let’s meet the scale of this crisis and pass the bold package our nation needs.”
Now is the time to go BIG and BOLD.— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) May 26, 2021
Mitch McConnell said 100% of his focus is on blocking this administration — so it’s time to move forward without Republicans.
As progressives pressure Democratic leaders to move with greater urgency on infrastructure—just part of a priority list that includes voting rights, immigration, policing reform, and more—The Hill reported Tuesday that Senate Democratic negotiators are giving Republicans and the White House up to three additional weeks “to show significant progress” before Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) moves ahead without the GOP.
“This is not the time for half-measures, half-spending, or foot-dragging. Now is the time to go big, to go bold, and to go fast.”
—Sen. Ed Markey
During a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted that “the ball is in the Republicans’ court.”
“We are awaiting their counterproposal,” said Psaki. “We would welcome that. We are eager to engage and even have them down here to the White House once we see that counterproposal.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—whose vote Democrats need to maintain their narrow majority in the upper chamber—is asking for more time to hash out a bipartisan infrastructure plan with Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and others.
“I don’t know why you need reconciliation,” Manchin said Tuesday, voicing optimism that a bipartisan deal is achievable.
Progressive critics such as Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon said the current situation is reminiscent of the early years of the Obama administration, when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House but still allowed the minority party to hamper their agenda.
Max Baucus is currently on pace to get Olympia Snowe's vote on the Affordable Care Act before Manchin gets 10 Republicans on a meaningful infrastructure bill.https://t.co/8qxFm3zi0L— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) May 25, 2021
Other Senate Democrats, though, have made clear in recent days that they view attempts to negotiate an infrastructure and climate deal with the GOP as a waste of precious time, particularly given the refusal of many Republicans to even acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change.
“You cannot negotiate a climate bill with climate deniers,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who criticized the Biden White House’s decision to trim down its opening infrastructure offer to appease austerity-obsessed Republicans.
“A smaller infrastructure package means fewer jobs, less justice, less climate action, and less investment in America’s future,” Markey warned. “This is not the time for half-measures, half-spending, or foot-dragging. Now is the time to go big, to go bold, and to go fast.”
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