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Democrats offer options for passing infrastructure, reconciliation bills

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks to reporters after a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting on Friday, October 1, 2021. to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers on Sunday offered numerous options for pathways for the potential to pass the stalled infrastructure bill and reconciliation package after failing to bring either key measures of the Biden administration to a vote in the House last week.

Some lawmakers said they were confident that they would be able to pass both measures while others, including some progressives who refused to vote for the bipartisan bill unless they could pass the larger reconciliation package first, suggested they’d be open to a smaller price tag or a shorter amount of years of funding social programs. House Democrats failed to bring either bill up for a vote last week as moderate lawmakers like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) refused to budge from their demands of a lowered reconciliation package.

“We are going to deliver both bills,” leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Jayapal said Manchin’s request for a pared-back reconciliation bill of $1.5 trillion was “too small to get our priorities in,” though she could not give an exact number.

Senior White House adviser Cedric Richmond echoed that sentiment, telling “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that President Biden “wants both bills and he expects to get both bills.” 

Both Jayapal and Richmond said they were focused more on the actual delivery of the bills, with Richmond, a former congressman from Louisiana, saying the White House was “not concerned with process.” 

“What we’ve said from the beginning is that it’s never been about the price tag. It’s about what we want to deliver,” Jayapal said. “The critical thing is let’s get our priorities in and then we will figure out the actual cost.”

However, fellow progressive lawmaker Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appeared to push back against suggestions of reducing the price of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders said it was not his “understanding” that Biden had suggested lowering the size of the reconciliation package.

“What he said is there’s going to have to be give and take on both sides. I’m not clear that he did bring forth a specific number,” said Sanders.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) signaled his continued support for the whole $3.5 trillion bill, though he conceded he was “realist” when it comes to the ongoing negotiations.

“Let me tell you at the outset I support the $3.5 trillion. I believe that the elements of it have been stated over and over again. They’re good for this country and they’re needed by families and by our nation,” said Durbin.

The Illinois senator did express some frustration at the negotiations.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked ‘what’s your number?’ ” said Durbin. “Every vote counts when it comes to getting to this majority, and concessions will be made. We’re certain of that.”

Progressive Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) both said shortening the years of funding provided for some programs could be a feasible option for compromising on the reconciliation bill.

“I think that one of the ideas that’s out there is fully fund what we can fully fund, but maybe instead of doing it for 10 years, you fully fund it for five years,” Ocasio-Cortez said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Khanna said sunset provisions could be one way that a compromise could be reached. He expressed optimism that Biden would be able to negotiate a compromise.

“The president is an honest broker. He’s going to bring all the stakeholders together, and I trust his judgment to get a compromise,” Khanna told Wallace.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders bipartisan infrastructure bill budget reconciliation bill Cedric Richmond Chris Wallace Dick Durbin Jayapal Joe Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Pramila Jayapal Pramila Jayapal Ro Khanna
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