AOC 'Fears' Social Spending Bill Will Be Gutted After Progressives Gave Up Infrastructure Bill 'Leverage'

AOC 'Fears' Social Spending Bill Will Be Gutted After Progressives Gave Up Infrastructure Bill 'Leverage'

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
November 9, 2021

Rep. Alexander Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) "fear[s]" since Progressives gave up its "leverage" in making sure that both the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better act were voted at the same time, President Biden's massive social welfare spending package will now be gutted down.

In a letter to her constituents in New York's 14th congressional district, Ocasio-Cortez explains her decision as to why she voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill without the spending bill attached, saying she feared "Congress may have jeopardized immigration reform, funding for NYCHA and any chance to meaningfully address climate change."

"Conservative Democrats really supported the infrastructure bill, but do not support some of what's in BBB - including paid leave, lowered prescription drug costs, and many climate change provisions," Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the letter. "Negotiations around these two bills had been ongoing for months, and leadership decided they wanted the infrastructure bill to pass on its own so Democrats could claim some sort of victory after tough election results in Virginia and elsewhere."

AOC notes how the infrastructure bill was a "leverage" bargaining chip for progressive in their negotiations with moderates and the White House to keep Biden's two domestic agendas tied together, citing it was a "risk" decoupling the bills as many of the provisions is bound to be removed.

"We could not risk that immigration reform, funding for NYCHA, climate change provisions, and so many other important priorities would not be passed. So the Congresswoman stuck to her word and voted against the infrastructure bill in order to try to keep these two bills tied together. 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," Ocasio-Cortez's letter reads.

"The President and House leadership has promised that BBB will still pass. We hope they're right, but how much of the bill survives now that we've given away so much leverage is the question," she added.

After months of Democratic intraparty infighting, the House had finally passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework (BIF) late Friday evening; once the bill was decoupled from the social welfare spending package and pending in Congress. The ever-fractious Democrat Party missed two deadlines — the end of September and October due to progressive withholding their support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill in an effort to ensure moderate Democrats would also back Biden's partisan social spending reconciliation bill paired together.

The spending bill started as a $3.5 trillion proposal was trimmed to a $1.75 trillion package, thanks to two key moderate Senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), opposition over their concerns with the price tag. In a desperate attempt to save face following the disastrous Election Day result that saw the beginning of the red wave across the country, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unfastened the two bills when a handful of moderates, led by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) demanded an official cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Despite Progressives threatening to sink the bipartisan measure for the third time, the caucus would finally cave in to support the bill. In return, the progressives extracted a written agreement from the Blue Dog Democrats, promising they would ultimately back the social welfare spending bill as soon as they obtained the CBO Score and would do so by the week of Nov. 15.

AOC and the rest of the 5 "Squad" members — Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), and Cori Bush (D-MO) were the only six Democrats to oppose one of the party's signature priorities. Despite their deflection, 13 Republicans helped cover their lost votes and moved the languished legislation to Biden's desk for his signature.

In an hour-long rant on Instagram following the House, Ocasio-Cortez pointed to her mistrust with her moderate colleagues over their demands for a CBO score while decrying the negotiations process as progressive firmly stated that both bills needed to be passed together.

"Throughout this process, people would say that within our caucus, one of the issues that we have had is trust. And trust is not built in the big moments. Trust is built in the little moments. Trust is built in the process," AOC said.

"We were ready to vote on Build Back Better this week. At the very last minute, there was a group of people saying, 'All of sudden, we need a CBO score.' You're claiming that you don't want to let Build Back Better proceed unless you can get certainty on the deficit … and demand that you have a deficit-increase bill at the same time? It doesn't add up. It's weird. Something weird was going on," she added.

The firebrand progressive "No" vote has sparked backlashes from her colleagues and social media followers, who complained that the Progressive lawmakers were pushing for too much while rejecting parts of what was available. Ocasio-Cortez has sought to explain her way out of her vote on different ways on social media against the bipartisan infrastructure bill while even fact-checking Biden's remarks.

In a lengthy tweet post on Sunday, AOC noted the infrastructure bill provides only $15 billion for lead-pipe replacement, arguing the country needs four times allocated to "get rid of our nation's dangerous lead pipes."

"It's not just that we made these promises before - look at how the infra bill is being messaged *now*," Ocasio-Cortez said in the tweet post. "I respect the President and the leg feat he just accomplished. But this is simply wrong. We did not fund the replacement of every child's pipe & we shouldn't tell people we did."

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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