59 House Democrats urge Biden to ditch Republicans and go even bigger on $7 trillion of infrastructure spending

Rep. Pramila Jayapal congress tech antitrust hearing
Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Getty/Pool
  • House Democrats sent a letter to Democratic leadership urging them to go even bigger on infrastructure funding.
  • They said that Biden should see past GOP negotiations and pass an urgently needed bill.
  • Biden has remained committed to bipartisanship and plans to negotiate on another GOP counter-offer.
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Bipartisanship is the theme of President Joe Biden’s agenda these days, with him dedicating the majority of his May in persuading both sides of the aisle to get on board with his $4 trillion infrastructure plan.

But House Democrats are worried that these negotiations, while well-intentioned, could narrow down legislation that Americans urgently need, and they want Biden to go bigger – in line with his campaign promises.

Led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Jimmy Panetta of California, 59 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday, urging them to take the opportunity to go big on infrastructure investments. They outlined three priorities regarding the size, scope, and speed of Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and they urged the congressional leaders to not get bogged down by Republican counter-offers. The letter was first reported on by ABC News.

“We appreciate the White House’s interest in reaching across the aisle to seek Republican support for overwhelmingly popular infrastructure priorities to invest in caregiving, workforce development, the environment, housing, and education, and to make the very wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce inequality,” they wrote in the letter. “While bipartisan support is welcome, the pursuit of Republican votes cannot come at the expense of limiting the scope of popular investments.”

A group of Senate Republicans, led by Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, introduced a $568 billion counter-proposal to Biden’s infrastructure plan. They have a Tuesday deadline to bring the president a new offer to negotiate, but Democrats don’t want this to be the focus of Biden’s agenda.

Here are the three main priorities the Democrats outlined to Schumer and Pelosi:

(1) Size

The lawmakers want Biden to prioritize his campaign promise of a $7 trillion infrastructure investment, including a four-year, $2 trillion investment on climate-focused infrastructure. Currently, Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposes $2.3 trillion over eight years, but Democrats want Biden to “maintain an ambitious infrastructure size” and go even bigger.

(2) Scope

After Republicans introduced their $568 billion infrastructure plan, Democrats called it “a joke” and “a slap in the face” given how small it was compared to Biden’s. In the letter, the Democrats cited Republicans’ “widespread climate denial,” among other things, as reasons to see past bipartisan negotiations and not succumb to a deal that doesn’t meet the needs of the economy and the climate.

(3) Speed

Given the fierce Republican opposition to Biden’s infrastructure plan as he proposed it, the Democratic group said “that robust legislation comprising the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan must be enacted as rapidly as possible, preferably as a single, ambitious package combining physical and social investments hand in hand.”

Republican lawmakers said that Biden’s plan focuses on too many things beyond physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, but Democrats remained firm in their messaging that care-economy measures, like universal pre-K and affordable housing, belong in infrastructure.

Biden and Republican lawmakers have expressed the desire to strike a bipartisan deal by Memorial Day, and Pelosi aims to get a bill to the House floor by July 4. Democratic leaders, including Pelosi and Schumer, have remained optimistic on reaching a bipartisan agreement.

“The president has his vision,” Pelosi told reporters last week. “The Congress will work its will. In any event, I felt optimistic about our ability to pass such a bill, and more optimistic now about being able to do so in a bipartisan way.”