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President Joe Biden speaks in front of the White House

President Joe Biden speaks outside the White House with a bipartisan group of senators on June 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

'We Must Do More,' Says Ocasio-Cortez as Biden Announces Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

The New York Democrat said that the "bipartisan package alone isn't acceptable."

Jake Johnson

President Joe Biden announced in front of the White House on Thursday that he reached a deal with a group Republican and Democratic senators on an infrastructure framework that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in spending on roads, bridges, water systems, and broadband over the next half-decade.

The package, which Biden characterized as the product of "serious compromises on both ends," will be far smaller than the president's original American Jobs Plan, which proposed roughly $2.2 trillion in new infrastructure spending over the next eight years.

"We have a deal," Biden told reporters. "None of us got all that we wanted. I clearly didn't get all I wanted, they gave more than I think maybe they were inclined to give in the first place. But this reminds me of the days we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress."

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the bipartisan deal includes $579 billion in new infrastructure spending over the course of five years, with $309 billion going to transportation and $109 billion earmarked for roads, bridges, and other "major projects."

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)—who led the bipartisan talks along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—said the blueprint will not include any new taxes. Instead, the framework proposes financing the plan by repurposing unspent unemployment insurance funds, reducing the IRS tax gap, and utilizing public-private partnerships and asset recycling. Progressive advocacy groups have warned that the latter two pay-fors would hand public infrastructure over to corporations and Wall Street investors.

The bipartisan deal also omits significant investments in combating the climate crisis, prompting concern from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chair of the influential Senate Finance Committee.

"I am not willing to support throwing climate overboard," Wyden said Thursday during a call hosted by the advocacy group Climate Power.

Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action, said the bipartisan deal "nowhere near meets the scale and scope of the climate crisis."

Shortly before Biden announced the bipartisan agreement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that the lower chamber will not vote on bipartisan infrastructure legislation until the Senate also passes a reconciliation bill containing Democratic priorities that were excluded from the compromise measure, including spending on safety-net programs, green energy, and more. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are currently working on a $6 trillion reconciliation package that includes Medicare expansion and other progressive agenda items.

The budget reconciliation process is exempt from the filibuster, meaning Democrats can pass the latter package without any Republican support. The bipartisan proposal, which will be advanced through regular order, will need at least 10 Republican votes to pass the Senate.

"We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill," Pelosi told reporters Thursday, adopting a stance that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) recommended last week.

In a series of tweets following the release of the new infrastructure framework, Ocasio-Cortez declared that the "bipartisan package alone isn't acceptable."

"The exclusion and denial of our communities is what D.C. bipartisan deals require," the New York Democrat wrote. "That's how you get the GOP on board: don't do much/any for the working class and low income, or women, or POC communities, or unions, etc. We must do more."

Biden expressed support for the proposed two-track approach to the bipartisan deal and reconciliation package during his remarks Thursday, noting that GOP lawmakers refused to accept the inclusion of elements of the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion safety-net package that the president unveiled in April.

"Republicans and this group did not want to go along with many of my family plan issues, the child care tax credits, the human infrastructure that I talk about," Biden said. "We'll see what happens in the reconciliation bill and the budget process, if we can get some compromise there. If we can't, [I'll] see if I can attract all the Democrats to a position... They're going to move on a dual track."

The president later told reporters that he will not sign the bipartisan bill if it reaches his desk without the Democratic reconciliation package.

"It's in tandem," Biden said.


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