May 14, 2021

Democrats keep pushing entire policy wish list as ‘infrastructure’


As moderate Democrats push for a bipartisan infrastructure package, the left flank of the party is continuing with its insistence that nearly everything on the policy wish list is considered under the banner.

In a tweet Sunday evening, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) argued, “Green transportation, Elder care, Child care, Water pipes & service lines and Veterans’ hospitals” counted as infrastructure, adding, “Let’s be bold in our vision as we rebuild America’s modern infrastructure.”

“Housing is fundamental infrastructure,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) tweeted Sunday while expressing her support for progressive calls to dedicate more funding to public housing investments in the bill.

Key progressive lawmakers will go even further on Monday, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) set to unveil legislation that could be included in or influence President Biden’s infrastructure bill.

A person holding a sign calling for housing for cash-strapped citizens in New York.
A person holds a sign calling for housing for cash-strapped citizens in New York.
Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, originally introduced by the progressive pols in 2019, “serves to train and mobilize the workforce to decarbonize the public housing stock and improve the quality of life for all,” a page on the bill on Ocasio-Cortez’s website reads.

“It is time that our government invests in our infrastructure, our people, and our future.”

"Housing is fundamental infrastructure," Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) tweeted April 18, 2021.
“Housing is fundamental infrastructure,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) tweeted April 18, 2021.
Kevin C. Downs

“Today, we’re reintroducing the Green New Deal for Public Housing because — with millions on the brink of eviction, millions under/unemployed, and with a coming climate crisis — investing in our housing infrastructure has never been more important,” AOC wrote on Twitter Monday morning of the bill.

Democrats have faced scrutiny in recent weeks over their definitions of infrastructure, and thus what they would be able to include in the already massive, multitrillion-dollar package.

A registered nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ararat Nursing Facility in the Mission Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles on January 7, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
A registered nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ararat Nursing Facility in the Mission Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles on January 7, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

The two-part “Build Back Better” proposal, a centerpiece of Biden’s post-COVID campaign message, will be split into two packages for Congress to pass.

The first focuses on infrastructure, while the second will be aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.

Flint resident Jessica Owens holds a baby bottle full of contaminated water, during a news conference after attending a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Flint, Michigan water crisis on Capitol Hill February 3, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Flint resident Jessica Owens holds a baby bottle full of contaminated water, during a news conference after attending a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Flint, Michigan, water crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on February 3, 2016.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In order to pay for the package, the federal government would impose a slew of new taxes, the administration revealed alongside the plan last month.

Members of the administration have said that unlike the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which passed on a party-line vote, the president is willing to negotiate with Republicans on this bill.

Workers with the San Francisco Department of Public Works repave a section of 24th Avenue on April 08, 2021 in San Francisco, California.
Workers with the San Francisco Department of Public Works repave a section of 24th Avenue on April 8, 2021, in California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

That would pose a problem for progressives’ policy agenda.

In that spirit of bipartisanship, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally who sits in the president’s former Senate seat, has been working with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on a compromise package.

 Sen. Chris Coons has been working on the compromise package.
Sen. Chris Coons has been working on the compromise package.
Demetrius Freeman/Pool via REUTERS//File Photo

That package, the two men told “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend, would split Biden’s package in two, allowing the portion focused on rebuilding roads and bridges to pass with GOP support.

The second bill, with left-wing priorities, would then pass on a party-line vote that Republicans would not be forced to support in order to get infrastructure spending in their states.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is working with Sen. Chris Coons on the project.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is working with Sen. Chris Coons on the project.
Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Democratic efforts to include such priorities in an infrastructure bill were mocked earlier this month, after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted, “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.”

Asked about that statement on Fox News last week, the New York Democrat stood by it, saying, “What we define as infrastructure as what is necessary to get the economy moving and if you don’t have access to day care, universal pre-K, affordable day care or a national paid leave plan, it’s going to be hard to get families back to work and we need them back to work.”



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