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Democrats Threaten To Tank Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Without A Complementary Reconciliation Package

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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  • As a bipartisan group of senators and the White House compromised on an infrastructure package Thursday, some prominent Democrats are threatening to tank its passage unless some of their top priorities are included in a complementary bill.
  • The bipartisan legislation includes more than $550 billion in new spending towards roads, bridges and other projects. But it omits key Democratic items like climate change and child care provisions, frustrating progressives who have said that they are blowing their chance to enact sweeping, long-sought policy goals.
  • “I can’t vote for some small subset … you know, the infrastructure train leaves the station and child care gets left on the platform, green energy gets left on the platform, billionaires don’t have to pay gets left on the platform,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday. “It’s that all of the pieces have to move because ultimately it’s one deal.”
  • “Let me be really clear on this: We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “If there is no bipartisan bill, then we’ll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill.”

As a bipartisan group of senators and the White House compromised on a physical infrastructure package Thursday, some prominent Democrats – including the president himself – are threatening to tank its passage unless some of their top priorities are included in a complementary reconciliation bill.

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan legislation, which has the backing of five Senate Republicans and Democrats and President Joe Biden, includes more than $550 billion in new spending towards roads, bridges, waterways and other projects. However, it omits key Democratic items like climate change and child care provisions, frustrating progressives who have said that they are blowing their chance to enact sweeping, long-sought policy goals.

As a solution, Democrats are preparing a multi-trillion dollar reconciliation package that includes their central priorities and requires only a simple majority to pass, and have conditioned their support for the bipartisan bill on unified Democratic support of their own legislation. Given the Senate’s 50-50 split and the bipartisan bill needing 60 votes to overcome a potential filibuster, any Democratic no votes could risk sinking the legislation.

“I can’t vote for some small subset … you know, the infrastructure train leaves the station and child care gets left on the platform, green energy gets left on the platform, billionaires don’t have to pay gets left on the platform,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren told MSNBC Wednesday. “It’s that all of the pieces have to move because ultimately it’s one deal.”

“That [bipartisan] deal has 20 votes — not 60 votes,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told CNN Wednesday, adding that other Democrats have to do a “deep dive” on the bill before they guarantee their support.

“This is a time for us to be visionary and bold and lead as a Democratic Party,” New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman said Wednesday. “So, if we’re going smaller on infrastructure, you cannot guarantee that I will not vote for an infrastructure package that goes smaller.” (RELATED: Progressives Threaten Infrastructure Bill After Voting Rights Bill Gets Filibustered)

Biden himself also ruled out signing just a bipartisan infrastructure bill into law Thursday, telling reporters that the success of the first was conditional on the passage of a reconciliation bill.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said. “It’s in tandem.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders meet with Democrats about how to move forward with a second reconciliation package. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders meet with Democrats about how to move forward with a second reconciliation package. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Democrats have also disagreed about some of the bipartisan bill’s proposed pay-fors, like raising the gas tax or imposing electric vehicle user fees, which they have argued will disproportionately impact the middle and lower class.

“One of the concerns I do have about the bipartisan bill is how they are going to pay for their proposals,” Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders told “Meet the Press” Sunday. “Some of the speculation is raising a gas tax, which I don’t support, a fee on electric vehicles, privatization of infrastructure, those are proposals that I would not support.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed on to Democrats’ reconciliation efforts during her weekly press conference Thursday, saying that she would not bring the bipartisan legislation to the floor until the Senate passed both that package and the reconciliation bill.

“Let me be really clear on this: We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said. “If there is no bipartisan bill, then we’ll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill.”

Progressive Democrats in the House have spoken similarly, praising Pelosi’s message and vowing to oppose any bipartisan bill if it does not accompany a Democratic reconciliation bill.

“It was always unlikely for many members to support a bipartisan bill on infrastructure without a guarantee on a bold reconciliation bill moving simultaneously,” said Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. “It’s time to deliver big on behalf of our constituents.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Democrats on the Budget Committee last week to begin drafting a reconciliation bill, and endorsed a Medicare expansion — a top Sanders priority — as part of it.

“There is a gaping hole in Medicare that leaves out dental, vision, and hearing coverage,” Schumer said Sunday. “This is a serious problem.”

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