Congresswoman Ilhan Omar offered what she termed “an honest accounting” late Wednesday night of the “ever-evolving negotiations” to do with the Democratic effort in Congress to pass the once sweeping, but now hobbling ‘Build Back Better’ bill that has been ransacked by a small handful of corporate-backed members of the party.
“First,” stated the Minnesota Democrat in a lengthy and detailed thread on social media, “instead of centering the needs of the American people, corporate Democrats have purely been about lining the pockets and serving the interests of the donor class.”
“If you really want to know why a provision is being killed,” she then added, “all you have to do is follow the money…”
The public rebuke of fellow Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona came just hours after reporting revealed that a proposal for paid family leave was the latest progressive initiative on the legislative chopping block, apparently at the insistence of Manchin.
While Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, hit cable news Wednesday to reaffirm her demand that legislative text be finalized before any agreement is made on the bill and—with “all the details not set yet”—that progressives will continue to fight for key priorities, Omar in her thread took the time to run through the variety of ways in which corporate interests targeted those priorities and in many ways were successful, despite their overwhelming popularity with voters, in shooting them down.
This is such a critical piece of the story: lobbyists mobilized against a bill that would benefit working people. https://t.co/Wo1wcoML4M— Max Berger (@maxberger) October 28, 2021
According to Omar’s accounting, which included numerous citations, the reality is that the coordinated corporate assault is at the heart of why Democrats ended up negotiating against itself—even on an agenda that President Joe Biden and the party ran on just last year. Omar tweeted:
- “The U.S. Chamber of Congress—the face of corporate greed—is working overtime to kill the bill, and already spent $30 million this year on lobbyists, along with a six figure ad campaign.” (Open Secrets)
- “Big Pharma—desperate to keep drug prices as high as possible—has spent $15 million. (Open Secrets) The oil and gas industry has spent over $55 million.”
- “A shadowy group called “Center Forward” is running ads everywhere to reward politicians trying to slash the bill. Shocker! They receive $1.5 million a year from Big Pharma.” (New York Times)
“So how has that played out in negotiations?” Omar asked.
“Let’s start with climate. The oil and gas industry all but killed cornerstone climate portions of the bill because it hurt coal, oil, and gas corporations,” she tweeted and pointed to CNN reporting from Oct. 16 which stated that Manchin was simply immovable on the Democratic plan to create the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), which would have harmed the bottom line of fossil fuel giants and utility companies.
“How about free community college, a key promise Democrats have run on since President Obama ran?” continued Omar. “Dead, thanks to the largest recipient of cash from for-profit colleges in Congress.” And that wasn’t all:
- “How about lowering prescription drugs, one of the most popular policies in the world? Slashed after a multimillion-dollar lobbying blitz by drug corporations.”
- “How about lowering the Medicare age or expanding it to cover dental, vision, and hearing? We are still working, but no lowering the age, no dental, and no vision, according to the latest negotiations.”
- “Paid leave is just the latest axe that might fall—not because of popular opposition—but because it goes against the interests of corporations and the Members of Congress who do their bidding.”
Pointing out that “Biden ran and won on these values,” Omar argued that so many of the provisions and policies slashed or on the chopping block “are the values of the Democratic Party” that now controls—if only barely—both chambers of Congress.
“It is corporate greed and the lawmakers who serve them,” she argued, “who are betraying the values of our party and the American people.”
With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other progressive members of the U.S. Senate still negotiating to keep their top priorities in the bill, all eyes are also on the CPC leadership of Omar and Jayapal in the coming days to see just how much of the package can be salvaged.
“We did not come to Congress to watch our entire agenda get torpedoed by corporate lobbyists, billionaires, and coal company owners hellbent on screwing over the American people,” said in conclusion to her social media statement. “It’s time to bring to the floor a bill that prioritizes people over corporations.”