Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to reporters

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks to reporters prior to a vote on June 22, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

'It's One Deal': Warren Says She Won't Vote for Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan Without Climate, Child Care

"We can't let the infrastructure train leave the station while child care and clean energy get left on the platform—or while billionaires and big corporations don't pay their fair share in taxes."

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made clear late Wednesday that she will not go along with a newly announced bipartisan infrastructure framework unless the Democratic leadership simultaneously presses ahead with a legislative package that includes child care, major investments in green energy, and other progressive priorities that are excluded from the emerging deal with Republicans.

"They may be voted separately, but it is one infrastructure deal," Warren said in an appearance on MSNBC. "I can't vote for some small subset that, you know--the infrastructure train leaves the station and child care gets left on the platform, green energy gets left on the platform."

"It's that all of the pieces have to move because, ultimately, it's one deal," added the Massachusetts Democrat, who also cited tax hikes on the wealthy as a necessary component of any infrastructure agreement.

Warren's comments came just as a bipartisan group of senators led by Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) announced a tentative deal with White House aides on an infrastructure blueprint calling for $559 billion in new spending over the next five years--a package far smaller than President Joe Biden's original $2.2 trillion American Jobs Plan.

"We demand no climate, no deal. Any Democrat who votes for this inadequate version of an infrastructure bill that doesn't channel massive investments towards stopping the climate crisis is betraying our generation."
--Lauren Maunus, Sunrise Movement

While senators in the 21-member bipartisan group stressed that details still need to be ironed out at a meeting with Biden on Thursday, one unnamed source familiar with the negotiations toldPolitico that the agreement "is basically cooked."

"All that's left are the handshakes," Politico reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the two top Democrats in Congress, told reporters Wednesday that they "support the concepts that we have heard about" but are awaiting additional details on the bipartisan framework.

In an apparent effort to assuage progressives' fears that climate action and other key priorities could be left on the cutting room floor, the Democratic leaders vowed Wednesday to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to simultaneously advance legislation that includes key agenda items omitted from the bipartisan deal. Given Democrats' slim margins in the House and Senate, they cannot afford many defections, meaning progressives have significant leverage over infrastructure developments if they're willing to use it.

"We can't get the bipartisan bill done unless we're sure we're getting the budget reconciliation bill done," said Schumer, who has been working with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on a sprawling $6 trillion reconciliation package that includes Medicare expansion and major climate investments.

"We can't get the budget reconciliation bill done unless we're sure of the bipartisan," Schumer added, alluding to conservative Democrats' opposition to using reconciliation without a bipartisan infrastructure deal in hand. "I think our members are--you know, across the spectrum, realize that."

Asked when the public can expect a vote on the bipartisan deal in the House, Pelosi responded, "As soon as we see a reconciliation bill."

Pelosi made similar comments to reporters on Thursday. "We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill," she said. "If there is no bipartisan bill then we'll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill. But I'm hopeful that we will have the bipartisan bill."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the whip for the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), welcomed Pelosi and Schumer's remarks as a positive sign, noting that "it was always unlikely for many members to support a bipartisan bill on infrastructure without a guarantee on a bold reconciliation bill moving simultaneously."

"It's time to deliver big on behalf of our constituents," Omar added.

Speaking to Punchbowl News on Wednesday, CPC chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) stressed that both the bipartisan package and the Democrat-only reconciliation bill--which can pass with a simple-majority vote--must advance at the same time to win her support, preemptively rejecting any leadership promises to tackle the reconciliation bill at some later date.

"We don't have a lot of faith in, 'I promise I'll do this,'" said Jayapal.

Huge questions remain about the contents of both packages as lawmakers continue to haggle over the details and demand inclusion of their priorities.

In recent days, as Common Dreams reported, advocacy organizations have raised concerns about the bipartisan group's proposal to finance their infrastructure package using so-called public-private partnerships and "asset recycling," practices that progressives rejected as thinly veiled attempts to hand public infrastructure over to corporations and Wall Street investors.

It's unclear whether progressives in Congress would be willing to tank the bipartisan deal over objections to those proposed pay-fors, which have not yet been finalized.

In a statement on Thursday, the youth-led Sunrise Movement reiterated its position that any agreement on infrastructure must come with substantial public investments in combating the climate crisis as the Western United States experiences a record-breaking heat wave and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reach all-time highs.

"Not since 2009 have Democrats held control of both houses of Congress and the White House. This is a historic, narrow opportunity to combat the climate crisis, and we can't afford to kick the can down the road any further," said Lauren Maunus, Sunrise's advocacy director. "We demand no climate, no deal. Any Democrat who votes for this inadequate version of an infrastructure bill that doesn't channel massive investments towards stopping the climate crisis is betraying our generation."

"Our leaders must step up," Maunus added. "We expect Schumer to pass the boldest budget resolution as soon as possible, go through reconciliation in July, and pass a robust infrastructure package by August recess. There can be no compromise and no excuses to get this done for the American people."

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