May 12, 2021
After President Joe Biden met with the Democratic and Republican leaders from both chambers of Congress on Wednesday to try to "reach a compromise" on his infrastructure plan, climate justice advocates urged the administration to "avoid the fatal political mistakes of the Obama era: not acting at the full scale of the economic crisis in an effort to be bipartisan, and falling short in delivering on promises made."
"We are up currently against the ticking time bomb of an unrelenting climate crisis and an economic crisis wearing down working people," Ellen Sciales, Sunrise Movement's press secretary, said in a statement. "Each day the process of passing an infrastructure package is delayed by performative negotiations with the GOP--who are clearly disinterested in working with Democrats--another day goes by that we are not healing our planet or getting people good jobs to support their families."
"We are up currently against the ticking time bomb of an unrelenting climate crisis and an economic crisis wearing down working people."
--Ellen Sciales, Sunrise Movement
Underscoring the GOP's intransigence, Sciales proceeded to offer examples of congressional Republicans' deep-seated antagonism toward Democratic lawmakers.
"When Mitch McConnell says '100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration,' believe him," Sciales said of the Senate minority leader, a Kentucky Republican. "The GOP has made it clear that they are a party bent on upholding manipulative and violent politics, and proved it when not a single Republican senator voted for the popular, much-needed Covid relief package."
Moreover, Sciales said, Wednesday's vote ousting right-wing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from a GOP leadership role for her refusal to go along with former President Donald Trump's reckless lie that the 2020 presidential race was "stolen" from him "is just another stark reminder that the Republican Party has devolved to a delusional, dangerous group that cannot even acknowledge the simple reality that Biden won the election."
"These are not people we should pretend will work with us in good faith," she added, echoing a point made last week by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
\u201cMitch McConnell is \u201c100% focused\u201d on stopping the Biden administration. Not on recovering from this crisis. Or health care. Or infrastructure. Or helping the American people.\n\nLet\u2019s stop pretending Republicans are interested in bipartisanship. Abolish the filibuster and deliver.\u201d— Pramila Jayapal (@Pramila Jayapal) 1620341580
Indeed, as Common Dreamsreported last month, Republican lawmakers have already vowed to oppose Biden's $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and $1.8 trillion American Families Plan--the White House's two-pronged approach to improving the nation's physical and social infrastructure--as long as the spending proposals include even modest tax hikes on the richest Americans and corporations.
The American Jobs Plan would increase the corporate tax rate, close offshore tax loopholes, and disincentivize outsourcing jobs. The American Families Plan would increase the marginal tax rate for households with annual earnings above $400,000, increase the capital gains rate for the wealthiest Americans, and provide the Internal Revenue Service with sorely needed resources to crack down on rampant tax evasion.
In addition to their opposition to raising revenue through progressive tax reform, the GOP has also claimedthat only a small portion of Biden's proposed investments can be considered "real" infrastructure, drawing rebukes from progressives.
While they have denounced Republican lawmakers for being unwilling to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund a post-pandemic economic recovery, Senate Democrats will need to win over at least 10 Republicans or use the restrictive budget reconciliation process to pass an infrastructure package if they keep refusing to heed growing calls to eliminate the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
Republicans don't appear to have budged as a result of Wednesday's talks. For the first time in his presidency, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hosted McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for an in-person meeting in the Oval Office.
Afterward, McConnell told reporters that the two camps still needed to "define what infrastructure is," and reiterated that Republicans are "not interested" in reversing the 2017 tax cuts for the rich, suggesting that little progress was made during the nearly two-hour long discussion.
"Each day the process of passing an infrastructure package is delayed by performative negotiations with the GOP... another day goes by that we are not healing our planet or getting people good jobs to support their families."
In her statement, Sciales stressed that "Biden can't get distracted by this false idea of bipartisanship when there's so much at stake. He must learn from the Obama-era mistakes and act urgently, without compromising with the Republican Party of violence."
Alluding to left-wing criticisms of Biden's infrastructure proposal--which falls far short of progressives' demands for $10 trillion of investments in green jobs, renewable energy, clean transit, sustainable housing, and the care economy this decade--for being "woefully" insufficient, Sciales emphasized that "Biden's infrastructure package is already a compromise."
"It can't be watered down further, especially to cater to a party that is fueled by the profits and donations of fossil fuel executives and that'd rather ensure billionaires get tax cuts than make sure working people get paid a living wage," she added.
Sunrise's call for Biden to forego negotiations with Republicans in order to prioritize delivering material gains to working-class Americans--as promised to the millions of voters who gave Democrats unified control of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government--comes just two days after members of Sunrise embarked on a 400-mile march from New Orleans to Houston to pressure the White House and Congress to rapidly and adequately confront the climate emergency.
On their journey--which traverses the heart of the U.S. petrochemical industry as well as cities that have been hard-hit by the convergence of inequality and extreme weather--the economic and environmental justice campaigners are demanding that Biden include the Sunrise-backed proposals for "Good Jobs for All" and a Civilian Climate Corps in his infrastructure plan.
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