Labor, environment groups push Congress for ‘bold’ manufacturing investments

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The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of major labor unions and environmental organizations, is kicking off a campaign to demand “bold” investments in climate-friendly manufacturing jobs as Congress wrestles with advancing President Biden’s economic agenda.

The campaign, called “For America, By America,” will focus on lifting up voices of working Americans in key battleground states to build support for robust investments in clean technology and manufacturing and put pressure on Democrats in Congress to follow through with plans for a big reconciliation package, The Hill can exclusively report.

Jason Walsh, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, said in an interview with The Hill that the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework backed by Biden appears to fall short of what the coalition wants to see passed.

“Details matter but what we have said both publicly and privately to this administration is that we don’t think that the bipartisan package, in terms of what we’ve been privy to with respect to its details, is enough to meet the moment on jobs, on climate and on equity,” Walsh said.

“That is why we have been insistent that we also need to be developing a budget reconciliation package that goes bigger and more ambitious and that prioritizes job quality, investment in the communities and the workers who need it most,” he said.

The group includes major unions like the United Steelworkers, Service Employees International Union and American Federation of Teachers, as well as green groups like the League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club.

The alliance is specifically calling for funding to retool the U.S. manufacturing sector to reduce emissions and build more clean products and technologies; investments in the care economy; an expansion of the social safety net to provide long-term support for workers; and a focus on investments in low-income communities and communities of color to achieve a more equitable economy.

The new campaign builds on a letter the alliance sent to Biden and congressional leaders in June urging them to back a robust economic package and warning against proposals with “watered down” investments. The letter was sent two days before Biden endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure framework, the legislative text of which lawmakers are finalizing this week.

“We have consistently been calling on President Biden and leaders in Congress to advance an ambitious, pro-climate, pro-worker economic recovery package that helps us dig out of the economic hole that we are still climbing out of but also addresses the multiple crises that we face as a country at the scale they need to be addressed,” Walsh said.

Biden says his goal is to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill in tandem with a bigger reconciliation package to advance his full $4 trillion Build Back Better agenda, but Democratic divisions and a razor-thin Senate majority are complicating his plans. Progressives have been critical of the infrastructure proposal for not doing enough to combat climate change.

The BlueGreen Alliance is one of several outside groups pressing Democrats for action on specific priorities. The group is highlighting recent polling showing bipartisan support for a large economic recovery package in states like Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee announced a deal Tuesday night for a reconciliation bill with a top line of $3.5 trillion. Biden will need all 50 Democratic senators to vote for the bill assuming it receives no Republican support, as well as nearly all Democrats in the House. 
That means getting centrist Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on board as well as more progressive lawmakers. 

Manchin told reporters Tuesday that he believes the bipartisan and reconciliation packages should be paid for with spending cuts or tax hikes.

The White House says that Biden, who met with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday afternoon and will head to the Senate Wednesday, was leaving decisions on the top-line figure to members of Congress.

“They agree that the budget resolution must include key priorities including universal pre-K, extending the child care tax credit, tax incentives and rebates for electric vehicles. Sen. Sanders is continuing to negotiate a resolution package and the president is confident they will pass something similar to his Build Back Better agenda. We leave that process to Congress,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a group of bipartisan senators are hoping to finalize details of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by the end of the week so it can be considered as soon as next week. It remains unclear whether all Republicans who have supported the negotiations will ultimately back the bill, given Democrats’ strategy of passing it along with the bigger reconciliation package.

Tags Bernie Sanders BlueGreen Alliance Joe Biden Joe Manchin Karine Jean-Pierre
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