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Pelosi and PPC

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during a press conference with members of the Poor People's Campaign outside the U.S. Capitol August 25, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Progressives Vow to 'Hold the Line' on Democrats' Bold Agenda

"We refuse to let conservatives stop us from getting what people need and deserve," said the youth-led Sunrise Movement. "We have to pass a bold reconciliation bill first."

Jessica Corbett

In the wake of Tuesday's House vote on a pair of packages that would invest in U.S. physical and human infrastructure, progressives within and beyond Congress reiterated their commitment to advancing Democrats' bold agenda, despite sabotage threats from right-wingers in both major parties.

"Democrats: hold the line and pass the boldest budget reconciliation package possible before voting on the watered-down Exxon plan."
—Lauren Maunus, Sunrise Movement

The House's party-line vote passing the Senate-approved $3.5 trillion budget blueprint—which allows Democrats to begin crafting legislation to implement President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" campaign promises and other progressive priorities—followed intense negotiations with a handful of lawmakers, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who threatened to hold up the process unless the lower chamber first voted on a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ultimately appeased the "Gottheimer gang" and secured unanimous Democratic support for the Tuesday resolution by including a September 27 deadline for considering the Senate-approved bipartisan bill, progressives continue to make clear that they won't back that measure without first passing the $3.5 trillion package.

"We made it clear then and we're making it clear now," tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), sharing a post-vote statement from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

"We won't support the infrastructure package without first passing a reconciliation bill that delivers lower prescription drug prices, comprehensive climate action, universal pre-K, and expanded Medicare," Bush said.

Other top priorities for the $3.5 trillion package—for which Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process to avoid a Senate GOP filibuster—include investments in affordable housing, child care, paid leave, and a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also took to Twitter after the House vote to echo the CPC statement that "our position remains unchanged" on passing the reconciliation bill first.

Ocasio-Cortez's declaration was welcomed by the youth-led Sunrise Movement, which said on social media that "we refuse to let conservatives stop us from getting what people need and deserve."

"Biden and Democratic congressional leaders can't be distracted by the antics of conservatives threatening to derail our shot of passing popular and historic investments towards stopping the climate crisis and creating millions of good jobs," said Sunrise Movement advocacy director Lauren Maunus in a statement late Tuesday.

"Democrats: hold the line and pass the boldest budget reconciliation package possible before voting on the watered-down Exxon plan," she said, referencing the fossil fuel giant's reported lobbying over Biden's infrastructure proposals.

Maunus added that while the House vote advancing both packages "is another step in the fight to stop the climate crisis, our movement won't stop until we pass a bold reconciliation package that jumpstarts the decade of the Green New Deal."

"Let's be clear: This $3.5 trillion budget resolution is the compromise. If Democrats don't pass a bold progressive agenda that fully funds the Civilian Climate Corps and investments in renewable energy, public housing, transit, and schools, we risk disillusioning the Democratic base in 2022 and 2024 and further condemning our generation to an unstable future," she warned. "We are watching and won't forget this moment."

Bolstering the case for members of Congress to keep pushing for bold investments, polling published Wednesday showed that majorities of Americans across the political spectrum—but especially Democrats—support both the bipartisan and reconciliation packages.

In addition to approving the $3.5 trillion budget resolution and setting a timeline for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), the House measure advanced the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), which the chamber passed later Tuesday.

The bill named for the late congressman—which would restore anti-discrimination protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—is now one of two House-approved voting rights measures that face an uncertain future with an evenly split Senate, which is still in recess.

Given that Vice President Kamala Harris breaks tie votes in the upper chamber, progressive lawmakers and advocates are demanding that Senate Democrats abolish the filibuster to end GOP obstruction of key priorities including the John Lewis legislation and the For the People Act, a sweeping and popular pro-democracy bill that experts argue could help combat Republican state lawmakers' recent attacks on voting rights.

In a series of Wednesday morning tweets thanking Pelosi for meeting with the Poor People's Campaign and urging Biden to follow in her footsteps, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the campaign's co-chair, connected the voting rights legislation to economic justice.

Earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, hundreds of activists were arrested at a Poor People's Campaign rally in Washington, D.C. demanding restoration of the full VRA, passage of the For the People's Act, an end to the filibuster, an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and fair and respectful treatment of the nation's 11 million immigrants.

The campaign is among those planning a "Make Good Trouble Rally," using one of Lewis' famous phrases, for August 28 in Washington, D.C. Barber concluded his Wednesday Twitter thread with a message directed at Pelosi: "Hold the line in the House, and we'll hold the line in the streets!"

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