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Reps. Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal attend an event in Washington, D.C.

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) listen during an event on June 17, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

Letter Urges Progressives to Fight 'Wall Street Democrats' Holding Biden's Agenda Hostage

"The United States does not negotiate with terrorists. It's time for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to extend that principle to the legislative process."

Jake Johnson

A pair of advocates for higher taxes on the rich sent a letter Wednesday urging members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to keep up their fight against "Wall Street Democrats" who are attempting to water down—or even kill entirely—a centerpiece of their party's domestic policy agenda.

"As a matter of national policy, the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. It's time for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to extend that principle to the legislative process," Morris Pearl and Erica Payne of the Patriotic Millionaires wrote in their letter (pdf) to Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the CPC.

"This is a fight progressives should fight, and one you can win."

The letter calls on CPC members to stick to their promise to vote against a bipartisan infrastructure bill favored by conservative Democrats unless a much broader budget reconciliation package advances simultaneously. On Tuesday, Jayapal said that "more than half" of the CPC's 96 members are committed to opposing the bipartisan measure unless it's coupled with the reconciliation bill, which is expected to include major investments in green energy, child care, housing, and other Democratic priorities.

"It's time for real Democrats to get serious about exorcising the rot from the heart of their party," Pearl and Payne wrote, referring to what they described as the "Wall Street Wing" of the party. "At this pivotal moment, the best and only way for honest Democrats to stand for their fellow citizens is for them to stand publicly against other members of their caucus."

The letter points specifically to conservative Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's (D-Ariz.) recent threat to tank the reconciliation package if the House doesn't approve the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill next week.

As Politico recently reported, at least "five to 10" conservative Democrats have signaled to the party leadership that they would rather let the bipartisan infrastructure package fail than go along with progressives' plan to approve both bills at the same time.

"The red line has been crossed," Pearl and Payne declared in their letter. "Let the fight begin with progressives voting no on an inadequate package that doesn't scratch the surface of the repairs this country needs, no to a package that fails to provide support for our families, no to selling off our strategic oil reserves rather than raising taxes on billionaires, and no to egocentric grandstanding at the expense of thoughtful debate and reasonable compromise."

"Call their bluff and force your 'centrist' colleagues to choose between passing both bills, or neither," they continued. "Force them to go big or go home—go home to their districts and explain why they did nothing to mitigate the damage wreaked on this country by a global pandemic and decades of government neglect. Let them go home to their voters and explain why maintaining preferential treatment for the rich in the tax code was more important to them than providing free pre-K to our children."

After meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday, Jayapal is set to meet with President Biden Wednesday to discuss the path forward for the reconciliation package, which is still being finalized in congressional committees.

In an appearance on CNN Wednesday morning, Jayapal said that despite the narrative being spun by right-wing Democrats and some corporate media outlets, members of the party's conservative wing are the ones who are "willing to crash the entire Democratic agenda by refusing to come together."

"We are the only people in the room right now that have said we want both bills done," Jayapal said, referring to progressives. "There are other people in the Democratic Party who are saying, 'We only want the infrastructure bill, and maybe or maybe not we'll get to the other bill.' We are saying, 'Let's stick to the deal that was made, both bills, so that we can deliver real results.'"

In their letter, Pearl and Payne argued that conservative Democrats "have not even articulated a single coherent criticism" of the reconciliation package, which is overwhelmingly popular among Democratic voters.

"Their performative objections to the bill's size and timeline of its passage are nothing more than a smokescreen for the fact that they do not want to raise taxes on millionaires, billionaires, and corporations," the pair wrote. "By acting against the interests of the country, against the interests of their constituents, and against the president of the United States, these rogue politicians are virtually ensuring the defeat of their party at the ballot box."

Read the Patriotic Millionaires' full letter:

As a matter of national policy, the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. It's time for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to extend that principle to the legislative process. To that end, we are writing to urge members of the Progressive Caucus to continue to stand strong, to stand together, and to refuse to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless it is directly coupled with the full $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

We've been to this horror movie before and, yes, the call is coming from inside the House (and Senate). It's time for real Democrats to get serious about exorcising the rot from the heart of their party. At this pivotal moment, the best and only way for honest Democrats to stand for their fellow citizens is for them to stand publicly against other members of their caucus.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema's threat to kill President Biden's Build Back Better Plan if the House fails to pass the bipartisan infrastructure package on September 27th should mark a turning point for progressives (and every other civic-minded member of the Democratic Party for that matter). The red line has been crossed. It's time to proceed to the much-anticipated, long-overdue public showdown with the Wall Street/No Labels Wing of the Democratic Party.

Let the fight begin with progressives voting no on an inadequate package that doesn't scratch the surface of the repairs this country needs, no to a package that fails to provide support for our families, no to selling off our strategic oil reserves rather than raising taxes on billionaires, and no to egocentric grandstanding at the expense of thoughtful debate and reasonable compromise.

Call their bluff and force your "centrist" colleagues to choose between passing both bills, or neither. Force them to go big or go home—go home to their districts and explain why they did nothing to mitigate the damage wreaked on this country by a global pandemic and decades of government neglect. Let them go home to their voters and explain why maintaining preferential treatment for the rich in the tax code was more important to them than providing free pre-K to our children.

The bipartisan bill on its own doesn't deserve to pass. It's inadequate in its investments, and almost embarrassing in its "pay fors." No, selling off our strategic oil reserves is not better than taxing billionaires. The bipartisan bill is, quite simply, a bad bill. And the only possible justification for voting for a bad bill is the commitment that a good bill will result.

The two-bill process was already the concession to these legislative hostage-takers. The original—and much better—plan was to pass the entire Biden Build Back Better Agenda in one package. But the Wall Street Wing refused.

They have not even articulated a single coherent criticism of the package. Their performative objections to the bill's size and timeline of its passage are nothing more than a smokescreen for the fact that they do not want to raise taxes on millionaires, billionaires, and corporations.

Their ardent opposition to provisions that are overwhelmingly popular with voters of all political backgrounds, like taxing billionaires at higher rates than people who work for a living or allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, have no political or policy justification. Bipartisanship is not a value system, it's an excuse for putting the interests of the rich over your constituents and assuming they will be too busy working second and third jobs to notice.

This is a fight progressives should fight, and one you can win. The president of the United States is with you, and so are the vast majority of the American people and the bulk of Democratic primary voters. And to be clear, failure to act—failure to adequately address the challenges this country faces—will doom Democrats in 2022. Holding onto power requires using it effectively when you have it. By acting against the interests of the country, against the interests of their constituents, and against the president of the United States, these rogue politicians are virtually ensuring the defeat of their party at the ballot box.

Democrats must put the interests of Americans who work for a living over the interests of the investor class, put the interests of our children and grandchildren over the interests of coal barons, and put a basic sense of fairness at the heart of our nation.

So please, stay strong, vote no until the reconciliation package is approved too. We've got your back.


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