Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday joined fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders in backing House progressives as they fight to ensure that Democrats’ reconciliation package—a potentially historic investment in climate action and the social safety net—passes before Congress gives final approval to a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“We had a deal. And that deal was in place long before we voted here in the Senate.”
“The agreement from the beginning was that all the pieces would move together… and that one piece wouldn’t be broken off and moved ahead of the others,” Warren told reporters after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she wants the House to vote on the bipartisan bill Thursday even if the reconciliation package is not yet complete—a reversal that angered progressive lawmakers and activists.
“Both Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats in the House and the Senate all said that’s the deal,” Warren said Tuesday. “I want to make sure we hold to that deal. I don’t want to see that deal broken.”
“We had a deal,” the Massachusetts Democrat added. “And that deal was in place long before we voted [to pass the bipartisan bill] here in the Senate.”
Warren’s comments came as members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) convened privately on Tuesday to discuss how they would respond to Pelosi’s about-face, which could imperil a central piece of President Joe Biden’s domestic policy agenda.
According to The Daily Poster and The Intercept, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—the CPC’s whip—told members during the meeting that “she had just been on the phone with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who warned that if progressives let the bipartisan bill go through, the Senate is unlikely to pass the reconciliation package.”
“Two Democrats serving in swing districts made the same argument on the call, suggesting that anybody who believed the Senate would pass the reconciliation bill without its hand being forced was fooling themselves and would wind up with no concrete achievements to run on for reelection,” the outlets reported. “On the call, more than two dozen members spoke, with not a single one saying they would vote yes on the bipartisan bill.”
After the CPC call, Sanders publicly urged House Democrats to block the Senate-passed bipartisan bill “until Congress passes a strong reconciliation bill.” If the House passes the bipartisan bill first, Sanders warned, progressives will lose “all leverage that we have to pass a major reconciliation bill.”
“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 said in a statement.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the CPC chair, reiterated Tuesday that a majority of her 96-member caucus will hold the line to ensure both bills ultimately reach Biden’s desk. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) endorsed that approach on Twitter:
Congressional committees are still hashing out the details of the reconciliation package, elements of which have drawn opposition from right-wing Democrats backed by corporate cash.
“If Dems tried to run on just the McConnell-backed infrastructure bill next November, they’d be screwed.”
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) remain major obstacles in the Senate, where Democrats need the support of all 50 of their members in order to pass the popular Build Back Better Act.
Politico reported Tuesday that neither Manchin nor Sinema were willing to provide Biden with specific objections to the reconciliation proposal, which could invest up to $3.5 trillion over the next decade in climate action, child care, housing, and other Democratic priorities.
“During a private meeting with the president, Sinema made clear she’s still not on board with the party’s $3.5 trillion social spending plan and is hesitant to engage on some specifics until the bipartisan infrastructure package passes the House,” Politico noted. “Sinema has problems with both the price tag and some of the tax increases devised to pay for it. After returning from his White House meeting, Manchin said that he did not give Biden a top-line number and made ‘no commitments from my standpoint.'”
With Manchin and Sinema’s obstruction threatening to grind the entire reconciliation process to a halt, Jayapal said Tuesday: “They need to tell us what they don’t agree with. And we need to actually be able to negotiate.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Indivisible co-executive director Ezra Levin warned that Democrats could lose control of Congress in the upcoming midterms if they only succeed in passing the sorely lacking—and, in the view of some climate groups, actively harmful—bipartisan bill, which Manchin and Sinema helped author.
“Speaker Pelosi prioritizes protecting her majority, and she can’t do that if Dems fail to deliver on popular policies that they all want to run on,” said Levin. “If Dems tried to run on just the McConnell-backed infrastructure bill next November, they’d be screwed—and she knows that.”