Will Sinema Officially Join The GOP After Sabotaging The Build Back Better Agenda?
As head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila claims she has at least 48 votes to block passage of the conservative-- and utterly inadequate-- hard transportation bill, until the more popular and expansive reconciliation package being held up by conservatives in both Houses passes. So far just 7 Republicans-- Brian Fitzpatrick, Adam Kinzinger, Tom Reed, Don Bacon, Fred Upton, John Katko and Don Young-- have publicly said they would vote for it, not nearly as many as Pelosi would need to pass it if the CPC holds firm, something they've never done before. (See ObamaCare, when 70 of them signed a letter that they would not vote for it unless it included a public option. It didn't and they voted for it anyway.)
Public statements have been issued by enough progressives to tank it-- which is why Pelosi put off the vote yesterday. Among the members who have publicly said they will vote no until the reconciliation package passes are AOC, Rashida, Ro, Mark Pocan, Mondaire, Andy Levin, Hank Johnson, Chuy Garcia, Jared Huffman, Veronica Escobar, Yvette Clarke, Ayanna Pressley, Melanie Stansbury, Mark DeSaulnier and Cori Bush. At the end of the day, Pelosi, presumably pressured by Biden, seemed to break her word to progressives and decoupled the two bills. Punchbowl News reported that she had a 90 minute caucus meeting and she and Hoyer announced the conservative hard infrastructure bill will be voted on (today? later in the week?). Also yesterday, the 3 top officers of the CPC, chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, vice chair Katie Porter and chief whip Ilhan Omar, penned an OpEd for CNN.com, Why we're willing to put our votes on the line for the Build Back Better Act. It sure looks like they're not bluffing! This is the OpEd in its entirety:
When President Joe Biden announced in the spring his plans for "once-in-a-generation investments in our nation's future," he said that "it is not enough to restore where we were prior to the pandemic. We need to build a stronger economy that does not leave anyone behind-- we need to build back better."
That is our shared vision-- the vision the American people voted for-- and it is what we as Congressional leaders must deliver with urgency.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced her intention that the House vote this week on a transformative economic package and a major investment in infrastructure. Congress now faces a choice: advance the entirety of an agenda that gets American families the help they need, or deliver only a fraction of it. That's why we, as leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, remain committed to voting for the infrastructure bill only after the Build Back Better Act is passed.
We lead one of the largest ideological caucuses in the US House of Representatives, and our members represent a cross-section of America. From rural districts to urban, from some of the most competitive districts in the country to Democratic strongholds, our caucus is emblematic of the diversity of our party and our country.
Yet, we hear remarkable consistency in our communities' concerns.
Parents can't get back to work because they can't find affordable child care. Young people are infuriated that their country's leaders are not taking aggressive enough steps to leave them a livable planet. Families are struggling to stay healthy in dangerous, crumbling public housing. Immigrant communities are tired of living under the threat of deportation-- especially as so many are essential workers who kept our country's economy going through the pandemic at risk to their own safety. And people cannot afford the prescription drugs they need, forced to ration medication to stay alive.
In short: Americans need the Build Back Better agenda.
This agenda was divided into two concurrent bills-- the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will allow for long overdue updates to our country's roads, bridges and waterways. But it's the Build Back Better Act that will deliver the child care, climate action, affordable housing, immigration reform and lower drug prices that Americans need, deserve and voted for.
The Build Back Better Act provides child care to women who have been pushed out of the workforce. It funds free community college and affordable housing. It finally expands Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits for our seniors. And it takes meaningful action on climate change-- funding millions of green jobs to build our energy future.
Not only is this good policy, but it's also overwhelmingly popular. Voters support the Build Back Better package's provisions by a 30-point margin, according to an August Quinnipiac University poll. Funding for home-based care for seniors has 75% support across the political spectrum, a July AP/NORC survey shows, with universal pre-K and affordable housing funds both seeing 67% support. More than half of voters are in favor of the child tax credit (55%) and free community college (54%). And about 2 in 3 Americans support paying for these investments by taxing corporations and the ultra-wealthy.
From the beginning of this process, the Progressive Caucus has been clear that the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act are two parts of a whole, so they must be passed together. Our call has been echoed by the President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader. As Speaker Pelosi said in June, "there won't be an infrastructure bill, unless we have a reconciliation bill. Plain and simple."
Passing the Build Back Better Act will require standing up to powerful special interests. The investments it makes in improving our economy are paid for by getting billionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes; insisting to Big Pharma that we negotiate drug prices; and taking on the fossil fuel lobby to address the climate crisis.
That's why corporate lobbyists, Big Pharma, and Wall Street executives have declared all-out war to stop the bill. Rather than understanding that these are investments in our economy-- which should be its mission-- the US Chamber of Commerce has been one of the leaders in lobbying against the bill with reported six-figure ad campaigns trying to block worker protections and climate action. The pharmaceutical industry, which already spent $92 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2021 alone, launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to torpedo President Biden's effort to rein in drug costs. Another corporate lobbyist decried provisions to catch tax cheats as "existential threat(s)."
If we allow corporate lobbyists to dictate our legislative agenda, the economic recovery will grind to a halt.
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. Updating our infrastructure is a necessary component to delivering a strong, stable economy that creates opportunity for all.
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. Millions of Americans will be left out or fall further behind.
A few conservative Democrats have suggested we should "pause" this urgently needed legislation by moving forward without the Build Back Better Act and providing less help to families. But we will not leave behind child care, paid leave, health care, housing, education, climate action, and a long-overdue road map to citizenship.
We must deliver for American families. 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. As he said when he laid out this plan: "We can do this. We have to do this. We will do this."
These were the priorities Democrats ran on in 2020. These were the values that allowed us to take the House, the Senate, and the White House. And by getting both the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law, we will meet the needs of the American people.
In 2018, when Schumer handpicked Kyrsten Sinema for the Democratic nomination-- and then cleared the field for her and helped her raise $22,197,141 and greenlit another $34 million in spending-- against a weak Republican, she was chair of the Blue Dogs, had the single worst voting record of any Democrat in the House and had already shown herself to be batshitcrazy. This evening she will be collecting checks from 5 Republican-oriented lobbying firms opposed to the Build Back Better agenda. These firms and similar organizations are paying handsomely for her opposition. In a normal word this would be called bribery and Sinema would be in prison. But this is the U.S. Congress, which writes the laws to exempt themselves from bribery statutes. Here's a partial copy of the invitation the NY Times published yesterday. If Sinema sabotages the bill-- which looks likely-- she will also send the Democrats back into the minority, probably in both Houses and is likely to be welcomed by the GOP when she jumps the fence.
OK, now play a game with me. I asked a bunch of House candidates who are following along closely for some input on this. Please read them and see if there's a candidate (or more than one) whose response makes you want to help him or her get into Congress. That's what the Act Blue 2020 congressional thermometer is for. Just read the paragraphs and there click on the thermometer and give someone an end-of-the-quarter contribution. and remember, there's no such thing as a contribution that's too small. Every single one can help ad up to a winning campaign.
Let's start with our newest endorsee, Mike Ortega, who's running against Orange County Blue Dog Lou Correa. "These Democrats in the Progressive Caucus are not acquiescing to party leadership that wants to be able to pass something and call it a win, no matter how watered-down it gets. I applaud the House Progressive Caucus members for going to bat for ALL of the important details that will matter to working people materially, and will help keep Republicans out of office in 2022. Unfortunately, my district (CA-46) is sending a Blue Dog Democrat to the fight-- Lou Correa. He and his caucus are focused on weakening the part of the reconciliation bill that allows for ALL prescription drugs to be more affordable. They want to keep the prices high, and keep their donors happy. Lou's biggest donors are Big Pharma Corporations, and lobbyists from them sit on the board of a corporate front group called Center Forward. Center Forward is running ads to boost all of the conservative Democrats fighting on the side of Big Pharma, including Correa. CA-46 deserves leadership that represents our values-- not one focused on profits for corporations that exploit working people. If I were in Congress today, you would be adding another tally to the total of Representatives fighting for every detail and penny in this bill."
Jason Call is running against a former health industry lobbyist, Rick Larsen. "This is the moment for progressives in Congress to stand firm," he said. "The establishment of the Democratic Party (the representatives of the oligarchy) will always seek to lay blame on the progressive movement for making demands on behalf of the American people. Should these bills fail to pass, they will not blame Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. They will not blame Joe Biden’s failure to exert pressure on Senate Democratic holdouts, or his failure to overturn the filibuster. They will probably not even blame the Republicans. But we are way past time to be fooling around with incrementalism while our planet is tipping over the edge of disaster and while the economy is failing a majority of Americans, more specifically the most desperate and marginalized of us. If this is the kind of brinksmanship the oligarchy wants to engage in then let’s play ball because things have to change in this country. If the Democrats lose the House and Senate in the midterms, the responsibility will lie with the members of Congress who refused to stand up for the America people, who are struggling to survive while a handful of billionaires literally rob the store.”
Mark Gamba, one state down, in western Oregon, is running against one of the very worst of the worst Blue Dogs, Kurt Schrader. He told me that for as long as he can remember, "corporate interests have utterly controlled Congress. We finally have enough progressives in office, that it is possible to push back on the conservative (read corporate sellouts) Democrats. The stakes could not be much higher. We have catastrophic climate chaos already wreaking havoc across the world; we have millions of working Americans that cannot afford their housing let alone day care and medical needs. In cities across the country people are living on the streets in numbers reminiscent of what I saw while working in third world countries. If we aren't going to fix this now, when, exactly, are we going to fix it? How far are we going to let ourselves be pushed? This is a pivotal moment in history. I stand with the Progressives. As Jean Luc Picard roared in a similarly pivotal moment for the human race: THIS FAR, AND NO FURTHER!"
Steven Holden is running for a Republican held seat in central New York and he has two corporate, conservative opponents, one Democrat and one Republican. "I have said from the outset of our campaign that we must see infrastructure in three ways- 19th, 20th, and 21st Century models. My fellow NY Progressives-- including AOC, Modaire Jones, and Yvette Clarke (for whom members of campaign worked to reelect)-- believe that we need to rebuild our industrial base, often referred as 19th Century infrastructure, by converting those facilities into green jobs. In my district, this would be facilities such as Carrier, and would be an instant economic boom. We believe that we must rebuild and repair the 20th Century version of our infrastructure by repairing and/or replacing parts of our electrical grid, our roads, and our bridges. Finally, we must view The Build Back Better Act as the fix for our 21st Century human infrastructure issues. This would provide critical aid to caregivers, such as the tired care worker I met in Wayne County. Some of those caregivers are on the brink of eviction and homelessness. One of my opponents in this race, Rep. John Katko, only wants the 20th Century portion fixed because he will get money from big land developers and the construction lobby. I will ensure that those jobs go to disadvantaged communities in South Side Syracuse, which is something I have discussed with those communities. His support is cynical. My other opponent 'Million Dollar Fran' Conole, who is from the Manchin-Sinema-Gottheimer wing of the party, has no coherent plan, or will copy what either I or Katko says to get him money and votes. As always, I stand with my Progressive brothers and sisters, and most importantly with the great people of Central NY and across the country."
Ally Dalsimer is running for a northern Virginia seat held by Pelosi ally New Dem Gerry Connolly. "Tomorrow's vote," she told me "is incredibly important, not only because of the vote itself, but because of what it represents... Do we have a strong progressive caucus in Congress who will put their collective foot down and play hard ball to do what's right for the American people? Or do we have one that talks a big game, but doesn't take the necessary stand when conflict arises? Tomorrow, we will learn the answer. If elected, I will stand with others who are 'unbought and unbossed' to vote in ways that benefit the working people of this nation."
OK, they all sound great to me. I'd love to know what you think-- even if you just give a dollar two. Please scroll up to that thermometer.