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Schumer and Pelosi

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 14, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

'Now Is the Moment': Progressives Urge Schumer to Jumpstart Bold Agenda on Care and Climate

Groups call on Democratic leadership to "do everything in their power to pass a reconciliation package that invests in our communities, brings down costs for families, makes the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share, and takes urgently needed climate action."

Jon Queally

More than 120 advocacy groups Monday called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to work urgently to restart the legislative process on the Democratic Party's signature domestic priority list by starting hearings, authoring text, and whipping members on a reconciliation package that can garner the needed support for passage in both the U.S. Senate and House by next month.

The new letter to Schumer—spearheaded by People's Action, the Working Families Party, Indivisible, and the Center for Popular Democracy Action—is signed by scores of national organizations and local affiliates who say Democratic leadership in Congress must delay no further in turning the party's stated priorities on healthcare, climate action, and economic justice into legislation that can reach President Joe Biden's desk for signature.

“For nearly a year, families across this country have been waiting for Democrats to deliver on their promises."

"Now is the moment to do everything in your power to ensure that we get the best, most inclusive reconciliation bill possible across the finish line," the letter states. "These investments will be paid for so long as you make corporations and the rich pay their fair share in taxes."

After being torpedoed by just two members of the Senate Democratic caucus—Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—that party's ambitious Build Back Better bill was killed at the end of last year. Now, according to the letter, the only hope is to cobble together a package built around those remnants where agreement can be found.

"In order to achieve the expeditious timeline we all agree is necessary, sections of the bill where there is significant agreement should begin moving through the necessary procedural steps," advise the groups in their letter. "The relevant Senate committees should schedule and hold hearings and markups on portions of the bill in their jurisdiction to work out remaining details, and any provisions that require parliamentary review should receive that attention."

Such preparations, the groups argue, will allow faster work once a full bill is ready for consideration on the floor of the Senate, and lessen the chance of last-minute surprises.

"For nearly a year, families across this country have been waiting for Democrats to deliver on their promises," said Indivisible co-founder and co-executive director Leah Greenberg, in a statement. "Senator Schumer and Democratic leadership must do everything in their power to pass a reconciliation package that invests in our communities, brings down costs for families, makes the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share, and takes urgently needed climate action."

Megan Essaheb, People's Action director of federal affairs, echoed those sentiments, saying, "Right now the multi-racial poor and working class are hurting due to skyrocketing costs for rent, food, and transportation. Majority Leader Schumer needs to do everything in his power to pass the agenda that we put President Biden in office to achieve."

Manchin, in particular, has remained a thorn in the side of Democrats, with his colleagues expressing frustration over his continued moving of goalposts and water-down proposals.

However, just ahead of Biden's State of the Union address at the beginning of the month, the leaders of key caucuses in the House released a joint statement that their members were ready and eager for a revived effort to pass a reconciliation bill out of the ashes of Build Back Better.

"It's not too late to meet this moment. There is broad consensus on the most critical solutions Americans need to lower costs for families, tackle the climate crisis, and create opportunities and good-paying jobs. It is time to act," the caucus chairs said on March 1. "We stand united and ready to work with President Biden and all of our colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure a strong, final version of this bill becomes law as soon as possible."

While the Democratic Party deserves praise for many successes since Biden took office, said Working Families Party national director Maurice Mitchell in a Monday statement, the failure to win sweeping and more lasting social investments in the care economy and on the climate front is not acceptable.

"President Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress came into office with a mandate to deliver for people. They can rightly take credit for significant accomplishments, especially the American Rescue Plan," said Mitchell. "But with the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit, and with investments in children and families, health care, elder care, housing, and climate hanging in the balance, the work is unfinished. In partnership with House and Senate Democrats, we are ready to jumpstart it. It's time to make good on the commitments we made to the American people."

Read the full letter by the groups below:

Dear Majority Leader Schumer:

Thank you for your continuing efforts to pass the President’s legislative agenda - on climate, care and critical social investments to lower costs for poor and working people - through the Senate. We write to urge you to take up the call from President Biden’s State of the Union Address and resume negotiations on the house-passed reconciliation package, begin any necessary committee proceedings, and prepare to bring this critical package of public investments to the Senate floor for a vote in April.

In addition to this call from the President, Senators across your caucus have signaled their willingness to find agreement on a significant piece of legislation. Restarting these negotiations should be pursued energetically, and commitments should be locked in where possible. In order to achieve the expeditious timeline we all agree is necessary, sections of the bill where there is significant agreement should begin moving through the necessary procedural steps. The relevant Senate committees should schedule and hold hearings and markups on portions of the bill in their jurisdiction to work out remaining details, and any provisions that require parliamentary review should receive that attention. This would ensure the Senate is prepared to package the bill together when the time comes for a floor vote.

The urgency of this legislation has only grown since the House passed it in November of 2021. Working people are facing rising costs for food, health care and other necessities and median rent prices rose an astounding 20% in 2021, furthering a national housing crisis. Taking steps to decarbonize and build a green economy becomes more pressing by the day. We are optimistic that you can achieve consensus in the Democratic caucus and deliver passage on most, if not all, of the critical investments the President has laid out. Doing so would provide needed relief to families facing rising costs of healthcare, housing and other necessities, lower energy costs while greening our economy, and strengthen our economy by making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. Further, doing so quickly would ensure our communities feel the benefits of these investments sooner, which is especially important for programs that may take some time to implement.

We appreciate your efforts to enact bold investments in our communities in order to begin to solve some of our society’s biggest challenges and now is the moment to do everything in your power to ensure that we get the best, most inclusive reconciliation bill possible across the finish line. These investments will be paid for so long as you make corporations and the rich pay their fair share in taxes. We look forward to working with you to rebuild the momentum around this critical legislation that will help to rebuild trust in the ability of our government to deliver for our people.

Thank you for your consideration. Please let us know how we can assist in getting this legislation to the President’s desk.


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