Biden risks first major fight with progressives

President BidenJoe BidenBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Olympics, climate on the agenda for Biden meeting with Japanese PM Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' MORE is on a potential collision course with progressives like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump was right about 'trying to end endless wars' Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Bernie Sanders says he disagrees with Tlaib's call for 'no more police' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats reintroduce bill to block US from using nuclear weapons first CEO who gave employees K minimum wage says revenue tripled 6 years later Forgiving K in school loans would free 36 million student borrowers from debt: data MORE (D-Mass.) over the size and scope of his newly unveiled infrastructure package.

While many progressives applauded Biden’s $2.25 trillion proposal on Wednesday, they also cautioned it is only the starting point for negotiations. 

Some of the more ambitious proposals favored by progressives, such as expanding Medicare, investing in free community college and universal prekindergarten, have been relegated to a second infrastructure package slated for introduction later this year.


That’s making progressive lawmakers and outside advocacy groups nervous. They worry some of their top priorities, such as more funding for child care and a permanent child tax credit, may lose momentum if the first package, which focuses on more traditional infrastructure priorities, becomes law.

They also question whether it’s realistic for the White House to expect any Republicans to vote for a narrower infrastructure package — which seems to be the main reason for dividing Biden’s infrastructure agenda into two bills.

One key moderate, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanKellyanne Conway joins Ohio Senate candidate's campaign OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Senate confirms Biden's pick to lead White House environmental council MORE (R-Ohio), took a shot at Biden’s plan Wednesday, calling the proposal to raise corporate tax rates “the wrong approach,” an early sign that attracting Republican votes will be difficult.

“This might be the last opportunity we have to really do big things under reconciliation. We need to see more here, and I think that’s the universal thought across the movement right now,” said Yvette Simpson, the CEO of Democracy for America, a progressive advocacy group, referring to special budget rules that allow Democrats to pass bills through the Senate with simple-majority votes.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda MORE (D-N.Y.) is making the argument to the Senate parliamentarian that Democrats should be allowed to move two more packages under those special budgetary rules.

Democrats are unlikely to pick up more than one or two Republicans on an infrastructure bill in the 50-50 Senate, if they get any GOP votes at all.


“The big question is, ‘Is this the last time we’re going to the well?’ We were told initially there were going to be two big reconciliation budgets. The first one was going to be around COVID and the second one was going to be everything else,” said Simpson.

If Democrats aren’t able to move a third reconciliation package to enact reforms left out of Wednesday’s infrastructure package, Simpson said, Biden’s $2.25 trillion proposal isn’t “going to go far enough.” 

By putting the most politically popular infrastructure items in the first package, progressives worry it’ll be even harder to get support from moderates such as Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats 'Just say no' just won't work for Senate Republicans The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSinema, Romney propose bill to tackle student loan debt House committee approves DC statehood bill Romney, Sinema teaming up on proposal to raise minimum wage MORE (D-Ariz.) when the more people-focused infrastructure package lands in Congress.

“You may as well put everything in the bill, get your caucus together on one big bill, because outside of Republicans we still have to worry about the Manchins and the Sinemas of the world who want their potholes [fixed] and they want it now, but they may not care as much about health care,” Simpson said.

Warren last week raised concerns that focusing exclusively on popular priorities, such as fixing highways, rebuilding bridges and upgrading ports, could make it more difficult to pass legislation later on that addresses economic inequality. 

“I want to see the details of how they’re planning to make sure that the climate issues and the child care issues don’t get left behind. We can’t have the train leave the station and critical parts are left on the platform,” she said.

On Wednesday, she tweeted that “the #AmericanJobsPlan is a game-changer and full of ideas that progressives like me are fighting for to make long-overdue investments in America’s future.” 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records Ocasio-Cortez says she disagrees with holding up infrastructure over SALT Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said Biden’s plan needs to be “way bigger.” 

“This is not nearly enough. The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years. For context, the COVID package was $1.9T for this year *alone,* with some provision lasting 2 years,” she tweeted.

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressive lawmakers press DHS chief on immigration detention Five hurdles Democrats face to pass an infrastructure bill Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan MORE (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Tuesday the White House needs to go even bigger, lamenting that Biden's proposal is much smaller than what he championed on the campaign trail last year.

"The Biden infrastructure proposal on the campaign trail was significantly larger than what's been discussed so far with Build Back Better," Jayapal said on a call with reporters, citing estimates that put the cost of his campaign proposal between $6.5 trillion and $11 trillion over 10 years.

"So we really think that there's ample room to get the overall number up to somewhere in that range in order to really tackle the scale of investment that we need to make," she said.


Jayapal supports including tax hikes in the package but primarily as a way to bring more "fairness" to the tax code, rather than simply to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements. 

"Democrats should not constrain ourselves or lower our ambitions because of manufactured concerns about the deficit," she said. 

Among progressive activists, there are growing questions about whether Biden’s infrastructure plan will do enough to tackle economic inequality in historically marginalized communities. 

“There’s a lot more that needs to be addressed, especially when we think about how equity has been reflected in climate justice work,” said Joanne Pérodin, an activist with Florida Rising. “This is the time for us to get bolder.”

She said the White House and Congress needs to make sure investment will be equitably spread across “Black communities, brown communities, indigenous communities.”

Given those concerns, progressive lawmakers and activists are rallying around another infrastructure proposal, the Thrive Act, unveiled on Monday. The measure would invest $1 trillion in the U.S. economy each year over the next decade with a goal of cutting climate pollution in half by 2030. 


Its sponsors include Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Biden can make history on nuclear arms reductions Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court MORE (D-Mass.) and Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellProgressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance Overnight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Mark Ruffalo joins bipartisan lawmakers in introducing chemical regulation bill MORE (D-Mich.), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaLawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Biden can make history on nuclear arms reductions Overnight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision MORE (D-Calif.) and Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeHillicon Valley: Twitter will not allow Trump account archive on platform | Commerce Dept. still weighing approach to Huawei, TikTok | Dating apps work to reinvent amid COVID-19 pandemic Key House leader to press for inclusion of cybersecurity in infrastructure bill Biden risks first major fight with progressives MORE (D-N.Y.).

Markey on Tuesday called the moment a “historic opportunity” to enact a bold plan.

“With a Democratic White House and Senate and House of Representatives we have a chance to lift the gaze of our country to the constellation of possibilities in job creation and to finally rectify the historic racial injustices so many people of color have faced in this country, all while solving the climate crisis at the same time,” he said in a video touting the legislation.

A progressive Senate aide called Biden’s plan “a good start,” noting that raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent and other business tax changes will raise around $3 trillion over 15 years.

But the source said Senate liberals “are going to push for more on the climate stuff, on child care and more progressive tax” policy. 

Advocates of a bolder approach argue the federal government will need to spend more money to achieve full employment.


“It’s a good step in the right direction in terms of the scope, the fact that it’s pretty expansive. However, as it relates to the scale, we’re going to need larger-scale investments in order to reach full employment in this country,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party.

He estimated that the Thrive Act would create 15 million jobs over 10 years.

“We’re going to work with President Biden and the Senate and the House” to expand the size and scope of Biden’s infrastructure package, he said, calling Biden’s $2.25 proposal “a floor.” 

Some activists are already turning their attention to Democratic moderates like Manchin.

“Over the next week, during the congressional recess, there are more than 130 actions taking place all over the country where activists and others are going to be engaging their congressional leaders,” Mitchell said.

“The actions range from congressional town halls, but there’s all types of other actions that activists are doing on the ground. In West Virginia, in front of Joe Manchin’s three offices, there are going to be concerts.”