Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez insisted Sunday that the House should not pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill absent a much-larger partisan spending package, claiming she and progressive allies have “more than enough” votes to kill the former unless the latter passes too.
The comments further conflict with any suggestion that the two bills might be considered on separate tracks, as some Republican negotiators had hoped.
The former bill, a roughly $1 trillion version of the original $4 trillion plan President Biden pitched as part of his “Build Back Better” agenda, includes provisions for transportation, broadband Internet, and clean-water systems. The latter, costing $3.5 trillion, would fund many of the Biden administration’s domestic legislative priorities, namely on climate change, health care, and family-service programs.
“It was made very clear at the beginning of this process that this bipartisan deal, if it even survives the Senate, the only chance that it has at passing the House is if the House passes the Senate bill and if the Senate passes the House bill, which is largely in reconciliation,” AOC said on CNN’s State of the Union.
The Senate recently voted on a procedural motion to advance the bipartisan deal, opening up the chamber to start debate and iron out amendments. A final text for the over 2,000-word document is expected to be released Sunday.
“We can’t just have one body driving the entire legislative agenda of the country and, frankly, 20 senators within that one body. We need a reconciliation bill . . . if we want this bipartisan bill to pass,” AOC added. “Reconciliation” refers to the larger package; specifically, to the process Democrats want to use to pass it on a simple-majority vote.
When anchor Jake Tapper asked whether she would vote for the bipartisan legislation, the Democratic representative replied, “We have to hold on to that bargain. If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House and if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in.”
The lawmaker said the “deal” is passage of the reconciliation bill for passage of the infrastructure bill, adding that the number of lawmakers who will stand by her in this demand is in the “double digits.” Asked if it’s enough to prevent the bipartisan bill from passing, she said it’s “more than enough.” The future of both these packages remains murky, as it’s not clear whether Democrats on the Senate side would hold together on the partisan plan, which Republicans oppose.
AOC also said that she finds some of the allocations in the bipartisan deal “alarming,” especially those pertaining to privatizing public infrastructure and toll roads.
“Leasing public infrastructure to private entities is very concerning and should be concerning to every American. We really need to see that language. . . . Bipartisan doesn’t mean its always in the interest of the public good. Sometimes there’s a lot of corporate lobbyist giveaways in some of these bills,” she noted.
AOC recently slammed Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema over her criticism of the reconciliation bill’s enormous price tag. The “squad” member’s comments echoed House speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, when she said she would refuse to put the bipartisan infrastructure agreement on the floor unless the Senate pushes the partisan proposal through reconciliation.
President Biden threatened to veto the bipartisan agreement unless the reconciliation bill also passed but backtracked following criticism from Republican lawmakers.