The chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus said Tuesday that she is convinced that in order to ensure that President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package can include all of the green energy initiatives, worker protections and other key progressive priorities, the Senate must either gut the filibuster or overrule the Senate parliamentarian.
The comments from Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington put House progressives on a collision course with moderates in the Senate as Congress is expected to begin work on Biden’s next legislative priority.
“We are going to have to take on Senate procedure in order to really get these things through,” she said.
Jayapal’s comments come as there is increasing pressure on the Senate to make reforms to the filibuster, but as key moderates have repeatedly said they don’t support eradicating the 60-vote threshold.
“Over the coming weeks, the (Progressive Caucus) will be prioritizing to reform or abolish the filibuster,” Jayapal said. “The voters did their part and now we have to do our part. We cannot go back to the American people because we didn’t deliver … because of an arcane and racist rules.”
Biden is expected to unveil his plan for the first piece of the infrastructure package in the coming days. Jayapal said that the caucus has been in regular touch with White House chief of staff Ron Klain and others about what priorities the caucus has for the infrastructure plan. Jayapal said that she thinks that the plan should be bigger than just $3 trillion or $4 trillion.
“We would like to see a great plan that goes big. The Biden infrastructure proposal on the campaign trail was significantly larger. We think there is ample room to get the number up,” Jayapal said.
She also dismissed the need to convince Republicans to sign on.
“I welcome Republicans coming along, but frankly I don’t see it,” she said.
Jayapal’s comments Tuesday underscored some of the challenges lawmakers will have as they try to keep the Democratic Party united as negotiations over the infrastructure bill ramp up. Jayapal noted that progressives see infrastructure as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to tackle climate change and potentially address issues in the health care system. But, the bigger the bill becomes, the harder it will be to keep moderates and progressives all on board. One area there has been early disagreement on is whether to pay for the proposal and how much of the bill should be offset. Moderates have argued there needs to be a significant down payment made to cover the cost.
“Our view is that infrastructure pays for itself,” Jayapal said. “This is something that does not need a pay for.”
She added she would be open to some tax changes, however.
“At the same time, we think there is a good opportunity to re-balance the tax code and make the wealthiest pay their fair share,” she said.