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Markey, Ocasio-Cortez

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) talk as they arrive for a discussion about the potential benefits of a Civilian Climate Corps at the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2021. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'Move Forward' on Infrastructure, Ocasio-Cortez Says Amid GOP 'Fury' Over Two-Track Approach

She says to "rebuild infrastructure and draw down carbon, lower the age of Medicare and extend it to cover vision and dental, expand childcare and housing accessibility, and serve the American people."

Jessica Corbett

Some progressives are celebrating President Joe Biden's commitment to a two-track approach to infrastructure despite reports of GOP "fury" over his comments that the $579 billion bipartisan deal and a Democratic reconciliation bill must come to his desk "in tandem."

In a pair of Friday tweets about the Republican reaction to Biden's remarks, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) addressed some of the progressive priorities that are expected in a reconciliation bill that could be passed by Democrats without any GOP support.

"It's time to move forward, rebuild infrastructure and draw down carbon, lower the age of Medicare and extend it to cover vision and dental, expand childcare and housing accessibility, and serve the American people," she said. "That is bipartisan too, with two-party support among the electorate."

The congresswoman also accused GOP lawmakers who may now withdraw their support of the bipartisan infrastructure deal—which focuses on physical infrastructure like roads and bridges and is far smaller than Biden's American Jobs Plan—of negotiating with the White House in bad faith:

Josh Miller-Lewis of More Perfect Union responded to her tweets with a video from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—who co-sponsors various climate legislation with Ocasio-Cortez—highlighting GOP behavior on a key climate bill over a decade ago.

"The last time Democrats were in power in Washington, I watched as climate action took a backseat to other legislative priorities, wasting precious time and political power," said Markey, then a member of the House. "We are in danger of making the same mistake."

Even though Democratic leadership in Congress has long been working on the dual-track approach, Biden's confirmation Thursday—the same day the bipartisan deal was officially announced—that he wouldn't sign just one of the bills thrilled progressives but outraged Republicans, including some who were involved in the recent negotiations.

The Washington Post revealed that senators who negotiated the bipartisan deal held a call about the president's position Friday afternoon.

"Many in the group were irritated about having stuck their necks out to back Biden's agreement in the first place and having just been at the White House less than 24 hours before," reported CNN. "Agreeing to the bipartisan deal was always going to put them at odds with some of their conservative colleagues, and they viewed the president's words as having undercut their good-faith deal."

According to Politico, "Democrats were privately confident afterward that their Republican colleagues would stay on board and that their outrage would pass."

Biden ally Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who endorsed the deal, told the outlet that "having spoken with several colleagues, I'm optimistic that despite some hiccups, the historic scope and widespread public support for this bipartisan infrastructure deal will keep it moving forward."

Despite that optimism, Biden's promise to block bipartisan legislation without a reconciliation bill could be "a potential dealbreaker" for Republicans, Politico noted, citing GOP aides:

One aide said that clearly linking the two infrastructure bills was never discussed—not within the group of 10 senators who met Biden on Thursday, the bigger group of 21 senators who endorsed their work, or with the White House. A second aide said that frustrations run far deeper than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who began griping publicly late Thursday.

"In endorsing the deal, Biden praised the group for 'keeping their word,' but then immediately broke his," said a third Republican aide.

"No deal by extortion!" Graham, who had endorsed the deal, tweeted Friday. "It was never suggested to me during these negotiations that President Biden was holding hostage the bipartisan infrastructure proposal unless a liberal reconciliation package was also passed."

In a series of tweets, NBC News policy editor Benjy Sarlin noted that while everyone involved with the talks knew a reconciliation effort was possible, Biden's clear requirement that the bills come together is new.

Ocasio-Cortez and others, meanwhile, pointed to previous comments from the president as well as GOP lawmakers that suggested everyone involved expected both a bipartisan deal and a reconciliation bill.

In a call Friday with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who led the bipartisan talks along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), "the president reiterated strong support for both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a reconciliation bill containing the American Families Plan moving forward on a two-track system," according to a readout from the White House.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed that message during a Friday briefing, telling reporters, "I think the American people are quite focused on how we're getting work done on their behalf—less focused on the mechanics of the process."

"Now, it is up to Republicans… to decide if they are going to vote against a historic investment in infrastructure that's going to rebuild roads and railways and bridges in their communities simply because they don't like the mechanics of the process," she added. "That's a pretty absurd argument for them to make. Good luck on the political front on that argument."

Though progressives welcomed Biden's commitment to a reconciliation bill Thursday, the bipartisan deal has generated concerns on several fronts—including its potential impact on unemployment benefits, its push for privatization, and the fact that it could exacerbate the climate emergency. 

"On infrastructure, the Biden administration has now presented a package where the contents are so far from what needs to be done it's impossible to even celebrate the dollar value," Alexander Sammon wrote Thursday for The American Prospect.

"It would be better to let the country's crumbling, outmoded, fossil fuel-heavy infrastructure continue to fall into disrepair," Sammon suggested, "than to take a deal that would extend the life and use of calamitous land and water use patterns further."

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