Ocasio-Cortez believes progressives lost ‘leverage’ after passage of infrastructure bill

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is concerned after the passage last week of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden’s additional massive social and climate spending measure is going to be hollowed out in the coming days after the Democratic Party’s left-wing faction gave up its “leverage” to join with moderates.

The New York self-described Democratic socialist was one of six “Squad” members who voted against passing the infrastructure bill because they wanted to see Biden’s social spending measure passed first. Members of the ultra-leftist group refused to go along with the infrastructure bill after Democrat leaders went back on an earlier promise to bring up both bills for votes simultaneously.

In a letter to her 14th District constituents, Ocasio-Cortez’s office said the congresswoman felt that her party, which controls Congress with bare majorities, may have “jeopardized immigration reform, funding for NYCHA and any chance to meaningfully address climate change” after failing to pass the two bills at the same time.

“The Congresswoman stuck to her word and voted against the infrastructure bill, in order to try to keep these two bills tied together,” said the letter. “She was always prepared to vote for the infrastructure bill alongside BBB, but she could not support the infrastructure bill on its own and risk losing our only leverage for policies in the BBB that NY-14 so badly needs.”

The social spending measure, which has been whittled down to $1.75 trillion from an initial $3.5 trillion, still contains many provisions that are backed by progressives including $500 billion for climate action, expanded pre-K, and more paid family leave. But the measure, even at the lower cost, still faces opposition from moderate Democrats in the Senate including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Also, Democratic moderates in the House have balked at the price tag as well.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus went along with the infrastructure measure after several House moderates said they would back the social and climate bill as it currently is no later than the week of Nov. 15, Fox Business Network reported. The Democrat House voted in favor of the “rule” pertaining to the budget reconciliation process for the measure last week “in a procedural step that precedes a final vote on the bill itself,” said the outlet.

But AOC and other progressives saw the infrastructure measure as a bargaining tool to push for higher spending in the reconciliation bill. They have warned for months that House moderates would seek to lower the cost of the second bill once their preferred infrastructure package was passed.

“The President and House leadership has promised that [Build Back Better] will still pass,” said the letter from Ocasio-Cortez’s office. “We hope they’re right, but how much of the bill survives now that we’ve given away so much leverage is the question.”

Biden is expected to sign the infrastructure bill into law this week.

For his part, Manchin has cited last week’s election losses for Democrats in key states including Virginia, New York, Texas, and elsewhere as justification for opposing more massive spending, which he says will only worsen inflation by pouring more money into an economy flush with cash but short on commodities.

Jon Dougherty


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