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Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) wears a protective mask while walking through the Canon Tunnel to the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said on December 15, 2021 that "now, we are faced with a false choice between saving our democracy from the existential threat of fascism and meeting the immediate needs of people." (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Bowman Blasts 'False Choice' Between Senate Action on Build Back Better Act or Voting Rights

"Saving our democracy is urgent and existential; it doesn't mean we have to pause on meeting the immediate needs of people."

Jessica Corbett

Congressman Jamaal Bowman on Wednesday called out his U.S. Senate colleagues following reports that Democrats may put off a vote on the Build Back Better Act until the new year and instead turn their attention to advancing voting rights legislation.

"We can pass both bills and must do so immediately."

Highlighting that 26 days have passed since the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives "did its job" to deliver on President Joe Biden's full agenda by approving the budget reconciliation package, the New York Democrat said that "now, we are faced with a false choice between saving our democracy from the existential threat of fascism and meeting the immediate needs of people."

"If we fail to deliver on Build Back Better, this is the last child tax credit payment that my constituents will see, despite tremendous food insecurity and child poverty in our district," Bowman notedwai. "The people in my district are all too familiar with the status quo and are counting on my colleagues in the Senate to address their needs by passing the Build Back Better Act."

Bowman—one of the few House progressives who voted against a bipartisan infrastructure bill after right-wing Democrats decoupled it from the Build Back Better Act—said former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal "was transformative, but only for some Americans." He warned that "we cannot repeat the same mistake in this generation–especially when seniors, women, and people of color bore the brunt of this pandemic."

"We have the opportunity to deliver transformative policy for the most impacted, disrupt the status quo, and put people and families first," he continued. "There is not a good enough reason for the Senate to withhold passing the Build Back Better Act in order to pass voting rights. Saving our democracy is urgent and existential; it doesn't mean we have to pause on meeting the immediate needs of people. We can pass both bills and must do so immediately."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, shared Bowman's position that the Senate must urgently act on not only the Build Back Better Act but also voting rights legislation—which has been repeatedly blocked by Senate Republicans, bolstering calls to reform or abolish the filibuster.

"Too much is at stake for the Senate to settle for this false choice—they must do BOTH," Jayapal tweeted Wednesday. "End the filibuster and get this done."

Bowman and Jayapal's comments came after multiple media outlets reported that talks about the $1.75 trillion social infrastructure and climate package between Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) had "soured," partly due to the expanded child tax credit (CTC).

Thanks to the expanded CTC, eligible families receive monthly payments of up to $300 per child under the age of six and $250 per child between the ages of six and 17. If Senate Democrats wait to approve a continuation of the program, checks for January could be delayed. Stalling or ending the initiative could force millions of children back into or into deeper poverty.

Manchin—whose attempts to water down the package have long delayed its passage—pushed back against the reports Wednesday, telling journalists that claims he wants to strip the CTC from the bill were "a lot of bad rumors" and he has "always been for child tax credits."

The West Virginia Democrat also snapped at HuffPost reporter Authur Delaney when questioned about the CTC, saying: "This is bullshit. You're bullshit."

CNN's Manu Raju spoke with Manchin about the CTC Wednesday night and explained in a series of tweets that the senator "said that he's objecting to a one-year extension of child tax credit because he believes it hides [the] true cost, since [it] will likely be extended."

Manchin told Raju that the CTC should be extended 10 years—but, as the journalist noted, "extending it for the next decade would blow up the price tag and would require wholesale changes of a bill," given that the senator won't agree to a higher topline number.

According to Raju, Manchin also "said that if it increases the price tag and they want to keep the CTC, Democrats should drop other programs in order to make it all fit under $1.75 trillion."

In a Wednesday statement about the CTC fight, People's Action director of federal affairs Megan Essaheb urged Manchin to change his position.

"Today is the last day families will get child tax credit checks unless Congress passes the Build Back Better Act to extend the life-changing program," Essaheb pointed out. "This legislation will only reduce costs for families and help them thrive—it's a no-brainer that Manchin needs to get behind."

"The child tax credit cut child poverty in the U.S. in half," she continued. "We have to renew it and continue supporting the millions of hurting families in West Virginia, and across the country. Sen. Manchin should listen to his constituents, not corporate interests, and deliver on the promises Democrats made when they were elected the majority."

Also rejecting any suggestion that senators must trade action on one priority for another, Essaheb said that "the Senate should pass both the Build Back Better Act and critical voting rights legislation as fast as possible."

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