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Sunrise Movement activists protest in front of the White House

Activists with the Sunrise Movement protest in front of the White House on June 4, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

'Negotiate With Us, Not the GOP': Sunrise Activists Rally at White House to Protest Biden's Climate Compromise

The president has "spent more of his time meeting with a Republican Party who to this day contests he is the democratically elected president," said Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement.

Jake Johnson

As President Joe Biden looks to cut an infrastructure deal with Senate Republicans by dramatically curtailing the size and scope of his American Jobs Plan, activists with the youth-led Sunrise Movement gathered outside the White House Friday morning to make clear that compromising on climate action to appease the GOP is unacceptable.

"We held up our side of the deal, but now that Biden is in power, that promise of co-governance with progressives and young people has disappeared."
—Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement

Varshini Prakash, Sunrise's executive director, said in a statement that by rolling back his infrastructure ambitions to cater to Republican lawmakers, Biden is betraying the young people who helped him win the presidency.

"I was invited to the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force to help Biden craft policy that was in line with what is necessary to meet the crises facing our nation," Prakash said. "Biden moved towards us, promising us a future, and in exchange, we worked tirelessly to get him elected. We held up our side of the deal, but now that Biden is in power, that promise of co-governance with progressives and young people has disappeared."

The president has "spent more of his time meeting with a Republican Party who to this day contests he is the democratically elected president," Prakash continued. "It's time to meet with us, the young organizers that elected him, instead. This moment demands an infrastructure package that will stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process, and we won't stop until he delivers."

Sunrise activists arrived at the White House with a series of demands, including:

  • No compromise, no excuses. Democrats must take their power seriously and stop negotiating with a GOP who is not serious about climate action or delivering for the American people.
  • Meet with the people who elected you. We demand that Biden sets up a meeting with Varshini Prakash and other youth organizers to hear our demands on infrastructure. Negotiate with us, not the GOP.
  • Pass the boldest jobs and climate package with a fully funded Civilian Climate Corps. Coming out of a global pandemic where we are facing massive unemployment and the constant threat of the climate crisis, we need an infrastructure package that includes a CCC that would put over 1.5 million Americans to work in good paying jobs while combating climate change and building a sustainable future for our generation.

Friday's action marks Sunrise's first White House protest directly targeting Biden since he took office in January, but the group vowed in a press release that it "will not be the last." The organization has previously called on the president to support $10 trillion in spending over the next decade to combat the climate emergency and create millions of good-paying union jobs.

"Sunrise Movement is using this protest as a call to action, recruiting young people from across the country to join them for an even larger rally in late June," the group said Friday.

The demonstration came amid growing progressive backlash against Biden's compromise offer to Senate Republicans, an infrastructure proposal that would slash the president's initial American Jobs Plan in half and leave in place the 21% corporate tax rate established during the Trump administration.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) warned Thursday that he "would have a very difficult time voting yes" on Biden's latest proposal, which Senate GOP negotiators are expected to counter as early as Friday.

"No Republican vote in favor of an infrastructure package should supersede our mission: to build an America that works for the people, not for massive corporations," said Bowman. "Getting Republicans on board is not necessary. Getting the American people back on their feet is."

Progressives have long feared that any bipartisan deal Biden reaches with the GOP would come at the expense of ambitious climate action, which Republicans oppose. In their latest offer to the White House, a group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) called for just $257 billion in new spending over eight years, slashing Biden's proposed investments in renewable energy and other priorities.

"If we learned anything from this year alone, the GOP is not the party that I think Biden idealizes," Ellen Sciales, Sunrise's press secretary, told Politico on Thursday. "Voters in 2022 and 2024, young people, are not going to ask whether or not Joe Biden was kind to Shelley Moore Capito—they don't even know who that is. They're going to see whether or not he dealt with the climate crisis and created millions of good jobs."


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