US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of a handful of progressives who voted against a bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the House on Friday, explained her “no” vote on an Instagram Live with constituents and supporters over the weekend.
Progressives had held out against voting for the bipartisan physical infrastructure package for weeks in the hopes of forcing conservative members of their party to vote for the Build Back Better plan, a separate bill to be passed through the 51-vote Senate reconciliation measure along party lines that contains a much wider range of spending for different projects including expansions of Medicaid, green energy tax incentives, universal pre-kindergarten education, and potentially some form of a paid family leave program.
Speaking Saturday afternoon, Ms Ocasio-Cortez explained that she and other members who voted against the bill were uncertain that the separate Build Back Better legislation would make it to the floor without further cuts; a number of conservative Democrats have vowed to vote for the bill as is should the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determine that it would not meaningfully add to the national deficit.
“What I saw happening yesterday was shaking my confidence” that the largerbill would pass without further cuts, Ms Ocasio-Cortez explained.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez also cited the CBO’s findings indicating that the physical infrastructure bill would add about $256bn to the US deficit over a decade, and questioned why conservative Democrats who were concerned with the deficit had voted for it.
“It doesn’t add up. It was weird, something weird was going on,” she said.
The New York Democrat, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens in New York City, went on to highlight the bills’ effects on global climate change, which she characterised as a significant electoral issue for her voters every two years.
The roads and bridges bill would provide billions for transit and shipping systems that run primarily on carbon-emitting fuel sources, and the use of concrete and other materials in the construction of new roadways and buildings will be another source of emissions.
The Build Back Better plan, by contrast, includes more than $300bn in clean energy tax incentives, $105bn for climate resilience projects, as well as $110bn in funding for clean energy-related investments targeted at the US supply chain, including incentives for the use of carbon capture technology.
In her Instagram Live video, the congresswoman explained that she could not support increasing US carbon emissions without simultaneous commitments to reduce them.
“I cannot vote to increase to our emissions without a commitment to draw them down,” she said.
Of lawmakers who resisted the climate-related provisions, including the ones already stripped from the legislation, she added: “A lot of the people making these decisions aren’t going to be here in 2050 and 2060, and we are.”
Ms Ocasio-Cortez was among just six members of her caucus to oppose the bill; others included Reps Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib.
Ms Omar described her own thought on the drama that unfolded in the House on Friday to The Independent, explaining that they had made a commitment to demand that the Build Back Better plan be passed first, including through the Senate, which by its own rules must have a CBO score before the bill could be approved.
“I have said that me personally, I want to see both of the bills come and pass simultaneously,” Ms Omar, who as whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus was unable to secure enough “no” votes to defeat the bipartisan bill, said in an interview. “That wasn't the case. I voted no on the [bipartisan bill] as I promised."
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