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After passing with bipartisan support in the Senate, the Biden-backed $1 trillion infrastructure bill is in limbo, as Democrats in the House of Representatives have vowed not to advance it unless the Senate passes an accompanying $3.5 trillion social program through reconciliation.
The ultra progressive members of Congress, namely the “squad,” which includes Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), as well as chairman of the Senate budget committee Bernie Sanders (I., VT), have refused to budge on the two bills being a package deal. They say moderate Democrats, such as Senators Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) and Kristen Sinema (D., Ariz), are standing in their way by opposing the gargantuan price tag of the social safety net expansion, which includes funding for healthcare, climate change, childcare, affordable housing, and education.
During an appearance on CNN Sunday, Sanders rebuked Manchin, who announced earlier in the day that he would be amenable to a reconciliation budget with a lower ceiling within the range of $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion, rather than $3.5 trillion as the Democrats desire. Manchin recently rejected the $3.5 trillion plan, citing concerns that such a massive injection of government spending could fuel persistent inflation, which has been increasing with each consecutive month.
The West Virginia lawmaker confirmed to CNN on Sunday that he will not vote for the $3.5 trillion bill, saying that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “will not have my vote on $3.5 (trillion) and Chuck knows that, and we’ve talked about this.”
“We’ve already put out $5.4 trillion and we’ve tried to help Americans in every way we possibly can and a lot of the help that we’ve put out there is still there and it’s going to run clear until next year, 2022, so what’s the urgency? What’s the urgency that we have? It’s not the same urgency that we had with the American Rescue Plan. We got that out the door quickly. That was about $2 trillion,” he added.
Citing Manchin’s cooperation to help enact the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the Vermont senator said he is confident that the other Democrats will convince Manchin to endorse nothing less than the full $3.5 trillion bill.
Sanders reiterated the Democrats’ ultimatum that the reconciliation and infrastructure deals “are linked together; they will move forward together.” If the reconciliation plan doesn’t survive, however, Sanders suggested that House progressives would be appropriate in threatening to kill the original infrastructure package.
“Mr. Manchin, I know, worked very hard on the bipartisan bill. It would be a terrible thing for the American people if both of those bills fail,” Sanders warned.
Despite the unprecedented, radical size of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan, Sanders stated that its new cost is actually moderate in comparison to what the Democrats first spearheaded.
“Many of us made a major compromise in going from the $6 trillion bill that we wanted” down to $3.5 trillion,” he asserted.
If the progressives boycott or shut down the infrastructure bill, Manchin said that they’d be sending a message of disregard to constituents, conveying “I don’t care about the roads and bridges, you don’t need it.”
“If they play politics with the needs of America . . . America will recoil,” he affirmed.
By pledging not to support the reconciliation plan as it stands, Manchin deals a hefty blow to the Democrats, who need 51 votes including his to pass it in the Senate. With a Senate evenly split along party lines, Manchin’s vote is crucial.
Echoing Sander’s comments from Sunday, some House progressives believe they can derail the infrastructure package in protest, but they may be limited by the fact that Democrats only hold a narrow 8-seat majority in the chamber.