House progressives lay out priorities for spending negotiations

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

House progressives are laying out their priorities in negotiations over Democrats’ massive social-spending package, as lawmakers seek to trim its size to get more moderates on board.

“We have been told that we can either adequately fund a small number of investments or legislate broadly, but only make a shallow, short-term impact,” leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) wrote in a letter Wednesday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “We would argue that this is a false choice.”

Democrats are working to reduce the size of their spending package from the $3.5 trillion figure backed by progressives, since key centrists Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) think that number is too high. In a meeting with House Democrats earlier this month, President Biden suggested lawmakers should consider a top-line number in the range of $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion.

Progressives in their letter reiterated their desire for the package to include five of their key agenda items: investments in the care economy, investments in affordable housing, Medicare reforms, addressing climate change and immigration reform. They also articulated their preferences for how to trim the top-line number.

CPC leaders said they would prefer the spending package to include “robust investments” over a shorter period of time. This contrasts with the position of some moderates, who would prefer that the legislation include fewer spending programs but over a longer period.

“We cannot pit childcare against housing, or paid leave against home- and community-based care,” the progressive leaders wrote.

They also want the legislation to be designed “so that benefits flow to the American people as quickly as possible, both to assist the Biden Recovery and to demonstrate our commitment to tangibly improving the lives of the American people.”

Progressives said they want programs in areas such as child care and education to be universal. In contrast, Manchin and some House moderates have said they would prefer spending programs be targeted to lower-income households.

“Universal programs are always the most politically durable and popular investments,” CPC leaders wrote.

Additionally, the CPC leaders urged Pelosi to maintain provisions in the package that would make investments in communities of color, including proposals related to housing, home-based and elder care, and immigration.

“If we cut those programs, we reduce the broadly transformative power of this legislation, and we once again fall behind on our promises to ensure racial equity,” the progressive lawmakers wrote.

The letter is part of progressives’ aggressive strategy to shape the spending package that has yielded some early wins. Earlier this week, Pelosi walked back comments that suggested she preferred moderates’ approach to reducing the size of the package over progressives’.

Tags Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Nancy Pelosi
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