Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema strongly rebuked the House of Representatives’ lack of a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a statement Saturday, calling the delay “inexcusable and deeply disappointing for communities across our country.”
Sinema’s statement came after a dramatic week in the House when Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed the vote on the infrastructure bill because progressives threatened to withhold support until details are ironed out for the separate, massive social benefits and climate spending bill. President Joe Biden vowed Friday that Democrats will deliver on their agenda as congressional leaders attempt to resolve intra-party divisions that have put passage of the two bills in jeopardy.
One of the problems, progressives say, is that Sinema, of Arizona, along with her colleague Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, want a lower price tag for the bill — not the $3.5 trillion that was originally decided by Democratic leaders — but won’t share details on where they stand on these negotiations. Manchin made clear Thursday that $1.5 trillion was the price tag he was willing to settle on for his party’s plan to expand the social safety net.
In her Saturday statement, Sinema slammed the progressive Democrats in the House that are withholding their vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“I have never, and would never, agree to any bargain that would hold one piece of legislation hostage to another,” she said. “Good-faith negotiations, however, require trust. Over the course of this year, Democratic leaders have made conflicting promises that could not all be kept — and have, at times, pretended that differences of opinion within our party did not exist, even when those disagreements were repeatedly made clear directly and publicly.
She added: “Canceling the infrastructure vote further erodes that trust. More importantly, it betrays the trust the American people have placed in their elected leaders and denies our country crucial investments to expand economic opportunities.”
CNN previously reported Sinema left Washington on Friday and is in Phoenix, Arizona, for a medical appointment, according to a statement from her office. Her office said she is continuing negotiations on the economic bill remotely.
Progressive leaders, including House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal of Washington, have repeatedly invoked Biden’s desires in explaining their position on passing his agenda and making the case for a vote against a bill that he supports and wants to see passed.
“We must deliver for American families. Our Progressive Caucus members will put our votes on the line to send the entirety of the Build Back Better agenda to President Biden’s desk. As he said when he laid out this plan: “We can do this. We have to do this. We will do this,'” wrote Jayapal, California Rep. Katie Porter, the CPC deputy chair, and Omar, its whip, in a CNN op-ed published Monday morning.
In a Dear Colleague letter released Saturday morning, Pelosi reinforced the decision by Democratic leaders this week to delay the vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to work on the economic bill progressives want.
“Yesterday, we extended the Thursday, September 30th legislative day to Friday, pushing to passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and to advance Build Back Better. But more time was needed to reach our goal of passing both bills, which we will,” she wrote.
Pelosi wrote in the letter Congress needs to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by October 31 before the extension for funding for surface transportation runs out.
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