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Climate activist demonstrate outside of the White House calling on President Biden to quickly pass a climate friendly infrastructure plan on June 4, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Sunrise Movement Warns of 'Betrayal' as Pelosi Bends Toward Corporate Democrats

"We need Dems to hold the line for a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, full stop."

Jake Johnson

The youth-led Sunrise Movement on Tuesday accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "betrayal" after she walked back her promise to ensure that Democrats' reconciliation package passes Congress before the House votes on a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

"Any Democrat who votes for the bipartisan bill ahead of reconciliation is doing it at the expense of our generation and we will not forget."

"It's honestly absurd to us that Speaker Pelosi has gone back on her word and become a pawn for a small group of representatives bought out by the fossil fuel industry," Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash said in a statement, referring to conservative Democrats who favor the bipartisan bill, which climate groups have strongly criticized.

"Any Democrat who votes for the bipartisan bill ahead of reconciliation," Prakash added, "is doing it at the expense of our generation and we will not forget."

Prakash's comments came after Pelosi (D-Calif.) reportedly said during a private Democratic caucus meeting on Monday that "we can't be ready to say, 'Until the Senate passes the [reconciliation] bill, we can't do [the bipartisan measure]." The American Prospect's David Dayen described the House Speaker's remarks as an attempt to "bulldoze progressives."

As Sunrise pointed out, Pelosi unequivocally stated in June that "we will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill"—a stance that progressives applauded.

Pelosi is now aiming to hold a vote on the $550 billion bipartisan bill on Thursday, and it's unlikely that the reconciliation package will be finalized before then.

Progressive lawmakers and activists have long warned that if the House approves the Senate-passed bipartisan bill before the reconciliation package clears both chambers of Congress, conservative Democrats will be free to tank the latter measure, imperiling a centerpiece of President Joe Biden's domestic policy agenda.

"Progressives are ready to pass the president's entire Build Back Better agenda because working families and our communities can't wait," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday.

Last week, Jayapal said that "more than half" of the CPC's 96 members are willing to vote down the bipartisan bill if it comes up before both chambers of Congress approve the reconciliation package, which is expected to include significant investments in green energy, child care, and other Democratic priorities.

Following a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday, Jayapal issued a statement making clear that the CPC's position remains the same.

"Moving forward without the Build Back Better Act would put long-overdue investments in child care, paid leave, healthcare, affordable housing, pre-K, community college, climate action, and a roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS recipients, and essential workers at risk," said Jayapal. "We will not leave anyone behind."

"We articulated this position more than three months ago," the Washington Democrat added, "and today it is still unchanged: progressives will vote for both bills, but a majority of our members will only vote for the infrastructure bill after the president's visionary Build Back Better Act passes."

According to Politico, "Pelosi and her leadership team—as well as progressive and moderate leaders—have been furiously working behind the scenes to come up with a compromise that all corners of the party can back."

"They hope that so-called 'framework' would be enough for Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus chief, to steer liberals to vote for the infrastructure bill, avoiding a humiliating defeat for leadership and the White House on Thursday," the outlet reported.

But Jayapal stressed late Monday that she will not accept a mere "pinkie promise" from leadership on the reconciliation package, which congressional committees are working to finalize as conservative Democrats continue to gripe over proposed tax hikes on the rich, Medicare expansion, and other popular elements of the plan.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, endorsed the CPC's strategy in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

"Let's be crystal clear. If the bipartisan infrastructure bill is passed on its own on Thursday, this will be in violation of an agreement that was reached within the Democratic caucus in Congress," Sanders wrote. "More importantly, it will end all leverage that we have to pass a major reconciliation bill."

In a statement earlier Tuesday, Indivisible co-executive director Leah Greenberg emphasized that "from the beginning, the demand has been that the reconciliation bill be on the president's desk at the same time or before passage of" the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF).

"We're encouraged by the progress made this week on moving the reconciliation bill through the House," said Greenberg. "But to be clear, our expectations have not changed: the Build Back Better Act must pass both chambers before the House passes the BIF."

"We thank the progressives holding the line in Congress," she added. "We will continue to have their backs as they fight for the inclusive recovery the moment demands. It's time to deliver."

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