WASHINGTON— House Democrats are careening toward an “ugly” intra-party collision over parts of President Joe Biden’s $4.1 trillion economic agenda, warns Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The New York lawmaker predicted Friday that she and other progressives would come under increasing pressure to help pass a $550 billion public works bill — as a stand-alone legislation — and to drop their insistence on pairing it with a sweeping $3.5 trillion package of social, climate and immigration-reform initiatives.
Passing those bills together has been the plan for months, Ocasio-Cortez told her audience at a virtual town hall.
But she said that a group of nine or 10 “conservative” Democrats this week tried to kill the larger bill and “put a stick of dynamite into all of this,” by blocking that budget framework from advancing.
The intention of those lawmakers, she said, without naming them, is getting only their “conservative” infrastructure package passed. She asserted that lobbyists for oil companies are bragging they “have these Democrats on speed dial.”
“I will not vote for a conservative infrastructure bill alone,” she added, explaining that she’d agree to do so only if it were paired with passage of the second, Build Back Better measure.
Ocasio-Cortez, whose district comprises parts of the Bronx and Queens, was referring to the tense fault lines between progressives and moderates that early this week threatened to derail Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy for shepherding through the budget framework and the separate $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Moderates had refused to vote on a measure to advance that framework into a next phase of legislative drafting until Pelosi included additional language committing to House passage by Sept. 27 of the already Senate-passed infrastructure legislation.
Ocasio-Cortez pointed out at the town hall that because of the narrow Democratic majority in the House, there are not enough votes for either side to get what they want unless both packages are adopted.
“So, if it gets ugly in late September this is what we are fighting for,” she said.
She cast the battle as an urgent one for many of the initiatives that she and other progressive Democrats are seeking. “We don’t know what the future holds for us, we don’t know the outcome of the 2022 elections,” she said. “We know we have this opportunity now.”
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