Sep 23, 2021
Endorsing the Congressional Progressive Caucus' ongoing efforts to secure passage of the Build Back Better Act, more than 90 social and environmental justice groups sent a letter Thursday urging House lawmakers to reject the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the more ambitious reconciliation package that includes anti-poverty measures and climate action is approved.
"We strongly support the position of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that two bills must pass together, as a critical step on the journey toward tackling the climate crisis and furthering racial and economic justice."
"Should the smaller, bipartisan bill come up for a vote before a reconciliation bill has passed, we urge representatives to vote no--in order to get to yes on Build Back Better," wrote the coalition, made up of dozens of organizations including the Green New Deal Network, People's Action, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Right to the City Alliance.
The Build Back Better Act, which proposes making "transformational investments in our future," the groups wrote, "would put our country on the path to 100% clean energy, provide home healthcare to those who need it, replace all lead pipes that poison drinking water, build a million new units of affordable housing, add hearing, dental, and vision coverage to Medicare, ensure child tax credits aren't taken away from parents who need them, expand and electrify public transit, boost rural broadband, lower the cost of prescription drugs, provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of people, paid family and medical leave and child care, and much more."
"These wildly popular investments," the coalition noted, "are paid for with taxes on corporations and the wealthy, which have for decades avoided contributing their fair share. Collectively, the investments would create millions of good, union jobs."
However, the far-reaching reconciliation package--on which the fate of President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party's agenda depends--is at risk of being "torpedoed by a maneuver being orchestrated by corporate lobbyists, if members of Congress go along," warned the coalition.
Most congressional Democrats have indicated they want to advance both the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act--which can be passed without Republican support through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process if all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus as well as House Democrats, who have a razor-thin majority, support it--and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a Senate-passed bill that calls for $550 billion in new spending to upgrade the nation's roads, bridges, and ports.
Both pieces of legislation are also popular with voters, but because the reconciliation package "would reduce big corporations' ability to avoid taxes and engage in harmful behavior such as polluting our air and charging obscene prices for prescription drugs," the coalition argued in its letter, "corporate lobbyists are doing all they can to prevent its passage."
With the help of politicians who benefit substantially from corporate campaign donations--including right-wing Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin (W-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) plus Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and his allies--Big Oil, Big Pharma, and other powerful interests are trying to water down or kill the Build Back Better Act, as Common Dreams has reported.
"These lobbyists' strategy," the letter states, "is to pass the bipartisan bill first, knowing that if it is taken off the table, that would reduce the incentive for conservative Democrats to vote for the bigger reconciliation bill."
"A significant majority of voters put Democrats into power in the last elections because they wanted our government to start acting in the best interest of the public... it is time for Democrats to deliver."
"The way to secure the best deal for the American people," the letter continues, "is to ensure both bills move together--and that means rejecting lobbyists' strategy of passing the smaller bipartisan bill through the House on September 27 without having first passed a larger reconciliation bill."
Alluding to the fact that "a significant majority of voters put Democrats into power in the last elections because they wanted our government to start acting in the best interest of the public," the groups emphasized that "it is time for Democrats to deliver."
"For this to happen, because their majority is narrow, Democrats from all sides of the party must come together and compromise," they added.
Given that the Build Back Better Act is "much smaller" than the 10-year investment of at least $10 trillion deemed necessary by policy experts--and the $6 trillion plan backed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer--"the $3.5 trillion reconciliation figure is already a compromise, hammered out by conservative and progressive Democrats in the Senate, and it omits many wise investments while leaving significant potential revenue on the table," the coalition wrote.
"Progressives in Congress have been flexible and constructive throughout this negotiation and continue to work to land a reconciliation deal," the groups stressed, "but they have also been clear: they will oppose passage of just the smaller bill by itself--because it doesn't contain the climate solutions and care, education, and economic investments we need. Passing just that small bill alone wouldn't be a compromise; it would be a capitulation."
"We strongly support the position of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that two bills must pass together, as a critical step on the journey toward tackling the climate crisis and furthering racial and economic justice," wrote the coalition. "We urge progressives to hold strong. We will have your back."
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