Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed Thursday that a bipartisan infrastructure package would likely do little to help poor communities, raising more doubt about the future of a proposal backed by more than 20 moderate senators.
“Usually . . . when these bipartisan deals come together, they tend to underserve the communities that are already underserved,” Ocasio-Cortez told MSNBC. “Not only do those communities get left behind and cut out in these bipartisan deals, but corporate interests gets centered in these deals, as well.”
The nearly $1 trillion framework endorsed by 11 Republicans, nine Democrats and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, reportedly calls for about $579 billion in new spending, including $110 billion on roads and highways, $66 billion on passenger and freight rail and $48 billion on public transit. An additional $47 billion would go toward efforts to fight climate change and there is money for electric vehicle charging stations.
The compromise plan would be paid for in part by tapping $120 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief money and $315 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program, created to help businesses pay workers during the coronavirus lockdowns. A debate is raging over whether the remainder would be paid by raising gas taxes through linking future increases to inflation. Democrats oppose that idea, while Republicans are adamant that the legislation not be paid for by tax increases on corporations or wealthy Americans.
The amount of Republican support for the framework suggests the proposal could receive the necessary 60 votes to pass the Senate. However, Ocasio-Cortez has previously warned that an infrastructure bill that does not sufficiently address climate change can’t count on universal Democratic support in the House, where the president’s party holds a slim majority.
The democratic socialist echoed that criticism on Thursday, saying her Democratic colleagues should ask themselves: “Are we passing the deal that helps working people the most? Are we passing the deal that makes the most jobs? Are we passing a deal that brings down the most climate emissions? Are we passing a deal that raises wages and actually improves our infrastructure for the next generation?”
“If a bipartisan deal sucks up trillions of dollars in bridges to nowhere because it makes people feel good, then that’s going to be a huge concern,” the congresswoman added. “We need to make sure that we’re creating economic opportunities for people who are ignored in this country.”
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are working on a sweeping $6 trillion plan that would go beyond traditional infrastructure to include far-left priorities such as lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and adding dental, vision and hearing benefits. The measure would also incorporate a long-running effort to provide legal status for certain immigrants, including “Dreamers.”
Though Senate Democrats could theoretically use the parliamentary gambit of reconciliation to pass such a measure with 51 votes (Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie, if necessary) the wild card, as usual, is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who backs the compromise framework, has balked at the cost of Biden’s initial proposal and has said he won’t support an infrastructure bill that doesn’t have bipartisan input.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made it clear Thursday that there will almost certainly be a second bill from Democrats, regardless of whether a deal is reached. She also panned the effort to increase the gas tax.
“I don’t think the American people, America’s working families, should be footing the bill for roads and bridges and the rest that America’s wealthiest people and businesses are using,” she said.
With Post wires