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House Progressives Urge Leaders to Abandon GOP Negotiations, Pass $4 Trillion Combo Bill

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) questions during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2020 (Leah Millis/Reuters)

House progressives on Tuesday urged Democratic leaders to pursue a multitrillion-dollar megabill that would join President Biden’s infrastructure and family plans together, as some members of the party have grown tired of the president’s efforts to negotiate with Republicans.

The letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), signed by 60 House Democrats, says a bill that merges Biden’s roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan with his $1.8 trillion families plan would serve as a “single, ambitious package combining physical and social investments hand in hand.”

Republicans have signaled a willingness to get on board with an infrastructure deal that costs $800 billion at most, which progressives argue does not go far enough. 

“They’re not being even players and we should just move on without them,” said Representative Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.), a signatory of the letter, according to Politico. 

He criticized the GOP’s $800 billion plan as an unserious “counting gimmick” and said it is “time to pull the trigger.”

Meanwhile, Representative Mark Pocan (D., Wis.) blasted the GOP’s counteroffer, calling it “ridiculous” and saying the Republicans’ list of proposals to fund it may as well have included a “bake sale” to help raise money.

“At what point do they seriously come to the table?” Pocan said. “If they don’t come to the table, it doesn’t mean we don’t serve the meal.” 

Progressive lawmakers have reportedly expressed concern that reaching a deal with Republicans on roads and bridges would cause them to miss out on a generational opportunity to expand paid family leave and child tax credits and to invest in green energy, according to the report.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said the president should “absolutely not” continue talks with Republicans about a bipartisan infrastructure deal “because we might lose our coalition for human infrastructure.”

She said she’s “100 percent” in support of pushing through a multitrillion-dollar package without GOP support using budget reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass legislation in the Senate with just a simple majority.

“I do not think that the White House should relegate recovery to the judgment of Mitch McConnell because he will not function in good faith,” Gillibrand said. “So, I just think it’s a terrible political misstep.”

Yet as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) noted, while one joint bill “would be quicker and easier,” Democrats “don’t seem to have the votes for it” in the evenly divided Senate where every Democratic vote counts, even for passing legislation via budget reconciliation.

Negotiations between the president and Republicans have been slow-moving, with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R., W. Va.) noting that a recent meeting between a half-dozen GOP senators, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had made progress but “we still got a ways to go.”

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden, said Biden “wants to see progress by Memorial Day” and added that inaction is not an option. 

“The president is committed to investing in our middle class and our infrastructure, and is working with both parties — reaching across the aisle in good faith — to negotiate about achieving that,” Bates said.

While Pelosi and Schumer have remained on board with Biden’s bipartisanship goal, House liberals reportedly “fully expect” the pair will ultimately have to abandon negotiations to create a broader package without Republicans, according to the report.

“We ought to have a timely negotiation with the Republicans, but be prepared to go to reconciliation if we must,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said. 

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