WASHINGTON— A bloc of six House Democrats voted against a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package last week, breaking with the rest of their party on a major priority of President Joe Biden that is key to his economic agenda.
Their main reason for the down vote: They wanted to pass the bill with its counterpart, a multi-trillion-dollar spending deal called the Build Back Better Act that is still being negotiated in Congress.
While the infrastructure package focuses on repairing the nation’s roads and bridges and expanding broadband internet, the Build Back Better Act includes proposals to expand social safety net programs and climate change initiatives. The $1.85 trillion package is what progressives have been pushing for months. They’ve argued the two bills should be voted on in tandem, but the House didn’t take up the Build Back Better bill Friday because it’s still being negotiated.
With Democrats holding a slim majority in the House, the six progressive Democrats would have been enough to sink the infrastructure bill. But 13 House Republicans ended up voting for the plan, giving it enough yes votes to pass.
Here’s what each progressive Democrat had to say about their vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill:
Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York
Bowman, who represents the northern Bronx and parts of Westchester County, said he did not vote for the infrastructure bill because it was not joined with the Build Back Better Act, according to a statement on Twitter.
Bowman said the infrastructure bill does not address other crises the country is facing including child care, paid leave, housing, prescription drug costs and the climate crisis.
He added that the infrastructure bill alone does not have the policies needed to address these issues.
“We were asked to vote only on physical infrastructure at the last hour and to delay the needs and suffering of our constituents with the weakest assurance that the original agreement would be kept,” he said. “The agreement was broken.”
Bowman said his Republican colleagues “moved the goalpost” after asking for an analysis on the cost of the Build Back Better Act. He said he and his Democratic colleagues made it clear that they would vote for both the Build Back Better Act and the infrastructure bill at the same time.
Bowman previously expressed concerns with the infrastructure bill after the Senate passed the measure in August, saying it does not go far enough to address key crises the country is facing.
“A true infrastructure investment must include transforming our economy to handle the climate crisis, supporting care workers, reforming SSI, making child care universal, rebuilding our crumbling public schools and much more,” he said.
Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri
Bush, who represents St. Louis, tweeted ahead of the vote on the infrastructure bill about the need for both pieces of legislation, later adding she would not accept anything less than the president’s full agenda.
“When I was sworn in, I promised to do the absolute most for everyone in St. Louis, starting with those that have the least,” she said in a statement following the vote. “I have been abundantly clear in my position from day one of these negotiations: St. Louis deserves the president’s entire agenda.”
According to Bush, a vote in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill would have “jeopardized our leverage to improve the livelihood of our health care workers, our children, our caregivers, our seniors and the future of our environment.”
Bush said in September she would not back the infrastructure bill without the Build Back Better Act.
“Those bills have to go together. Reconciliation has to happen. Build Back Better has to happen in the House and the Senate before we will vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” she told MSNBC.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York
Ocasio-Cortez has been critical of passing the infrastructure bill without the Build Back Better Act.
She took to Instagram live to explain her reasoning for voting no, saying one of her main concerns with solely passing the infrastructure bill was that the legislation locked in increases to climate emissions.
“When it comes to infrastructure, we need to address the climate crisis,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, said she was willing to vote for the infrastructure bill if it was paired with the Build Back Better Act, describing how unprecedented climate investments in the infrastructure bill have been linked to other policies in the Build Back Better Act.
Without passing the Build Back Better Act, she said many of these provisions do not get unlocked.
“I cannot vote to increase our emissions without a commitment to draw them down,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez said she thinks the Build Back Better Act will be passed, but is not sure if it will be recognizable when compared to its latest version.
“We can and should message (the bipartisan infrastructure bill) as a step, but messaging it as a solution alone is going to get us in trouble,” she tweeted. “BBB contains the majority of the president’s agenda. We must keep going and ensure the promises are delivered.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota
Following the vote, Omar released a statement giving her reasons for voting “no” on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. She cited Minnesota’s housing shortage and rapidly rising temperatures as some of the reasons she is pushing for the Build Back Better Act’s promises of affordable housing and climate crisis solutions.
Omar represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, including Minneapolis and its surrounding suburbs. Originally sworn into office in 2019, Omar is the first African refugee to become a member of Congress, the first woman of color to represent Minnesota and one of the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress.
“My community cannot wait any longer for these much-needed investments that will be delivered through the Build Back Better Act,” Omar said in the statement on Friday. “I cannot in good conscience support the infrastructure bill without voting on the President’s transformative agenda first.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts
In a statement released on Saturday, Pressley stood in line with her progressive colleagues as she called for the Build Back Better Act to pass alongside the infrastructure bill.
“We had an agreement that these two bill would move together – not that we would vote for one in exchange for a potential vote on the other if certain conditions were met,” Pressley said in her statement. “Unfortunately, that agreement was not honored.”
Pressley represents parts of Boston and its suburbs and is the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from Massachusetts.
The congresswoman said she would not be forced to choose between expanding physical infrastructure or social programs. On Twitter, she expressed her support for one aspect in particular: Paid family leave.
A proposal for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave was dropped from the budget bill’s framework in late October. After outrage from some Democrats over the move, a four-week proposal was added back into the bill.
“Paid leave is infrastructure. Full stop,” Pressley tweeted last Friday.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
Tlaib currently represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, which includes Detroit and its surrounding area. In 2008, Tlaib became the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan state Legislature.
On Twitter, Tlaib echoed her progressive colleagues’ sentiments on Build Back Better. She told supporters in a statement that in order to pass the infrastructure bill, Congress also needs to pass Biden’s social infrastructure plan.
“Separating out BBB risks my residents losing child care, real climate solutions, paid leave, reducing the costs of prescription drugs, labor protections, funding for housing, covering hearing aids & fully funding removal of lead service lines,” Tlaib wrote on Twitter. “We must pass Build Back Better.”
In a statement from her office, Tlaib cites a number of climate change-oriented policies as a reason for her “no” vote. She says that the infrastructure bill does not prioritize clean air and water for her Michigan constituents.
Tlaib said her issues with the package stem from language written by Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The two senators have been at the center of Biden’s infrastructure debate as they objected to his initial $3.5 trillion package and forced the administration to significantly scale back their plans.
“I will not sacrifice the health and safety of my residents for two Senators who have shown nothing but contempt for the people I represent,” she wrote.