Tlaib holds out for better deal on social spending, infrastructure bills
Washington — Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is promising to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill that is part of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda without a guaranteed vote on his larger social policy and climate package.
House leaders were hoping to move ahead as soon as Thursday with a vote on the Senate's bipartisan $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure package, known as BIF, but the Detroit Democrat said she would vote no without the larger Build Back Better social policy legislation.
"From the beginning, folks wanted to see both and, right now, House leadership has decided to move BIF without Build Back Better," Tlaib said in an interview. "I'm still in this fight. I didn't come here to give up this easily on my residents."
Other progressive lawmakers also said Thursday they'd vote to block the bipartisan piece, threatening its passage since House Democrats can only afford to lose three votes.
Tlaib criticized the Democratic leadership for setting an "arbitrary deadline" for voting on the bipartisan infrastructure piece, which focuses on roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure but doesn't address Democrats' agenda items around home care, child care or affordable housing. Tlaib said she wants to see votes on both bills together on the same day.
"I truly believe that voting for BIF without Build Back Better is going to essentially kill all of the progress we've made," Tlaib said, "and the additional money that we needed for lead replacement lines, the additional money that we needed to address child care and home care needs for our residents."
She and other lawmakers lamented elements that were cut from the social spending package, which was slimmed down from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion in a framework Biden revealed Thursday.
No longer in the package are paid family leave, efforts to lower prescription drug prices or two years of free community college. Tlaib also noted funding for lead service line removal was slashed from $30 billion to $9 billion.
"We can’t Build Back Better if our children are being poisoned with lead," she said. "We need to fully fund lead pipe replacement in our country, and that means getting closer to $60 billion — not half measures that aren't going to help communities like Benton Harbor and communities that look like mine."
Tlaib noted there have been no guarantees of support for Biden's latest $1.75 trillion framework from key Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who pushed for the trimmer legislation and whom Tlaib blamed for "obstructing" progress and gutting the spending bill.
Biden visited the House Democratic caucus on Thursday morning and urged members to pass both packages, while leaving the timing and structure up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus," Biden said later Thursday in remarks at the White House. "I know it’s hard. I know how deeply (people) feel about the things they fight for."
Still included in Biden's latest framework are free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit, hearing benefits for Medicare, electric vehicle and clean energy credits, and expanded aid for home care and child care.
One of Tlaib's measures to help with home repairs remained intact, she said, but was reduced from $7.5 billion to $3 billion.
Several other Michigan Democrats threw their support behind Biden's new $1.75 trillion framework for the social policy and climate package.
Those who said they'd back both pieces of legislation included Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township; Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield; and Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, as well as Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.
"The framework announced today will lower costs, give parents greater ability to return to work & puts middle class families first," Peters tweeted. "I applaud @POTUS's leadership to #BuildBackBetter."
Lawrence, co-chair of the Democratic Women's Caucus and vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was among a group of lawmakers who met Wednesday with Biden at the White House about the legislation.
"I’m thrilled we are getting closer to the finish line, and I will continue to work with this administration and my congressional colleagues to deliver on these life-changing policies, including child care, universal Pre-K, the Child Tax Credit, and mental health care services," Lawrence said in a statement. "This will be huge for women, families, and our economy."
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, has urged leadership to take up and pass the bipartisan package for weeks. Her office said she was still reviewing the text of the Build Back Better legislation, some of which was released Thursday.
It wasn't clear whether Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, or Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township — both members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — would vote for the bipartisan package without an agreement with Democratic centrists on the social spending package.
Previously, Levin said he would vote against the bipartisan package without the accompanying Build Back Better bill, which includes many of his top climate and social policy priorities.
"Let's remember that the Build Back Better Act is not the Progressive Caucus' wish list. ... We're fighting for what the president wants," Levin said last month.
Only one Michigan Republican lawmaker, Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, has publicly committed to vote yes on the bipartisan infrastructure package, stressing the poor condition of roads and bridges in Michigan and the need to expand rural broadband.
Many GOP lawmakers have complained about being left out of the budget reconciliation process that Democrats are using to move the larger social spending package through the Senate with a simple majority.
"I'm viscerally opposed to what's been floated," Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township, said this week.
"That is a process that we have been, by design, entirely excluded from, and so the assumption is you would only put things in there that you would expect no Republican in their right mind to support."