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The past few months of national news have been dominated by the debate over Joe Biden’s agenda, and the Reconciliation Bill vs the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. In 2020, during the Democratic Primary, candidate Bernie Sanders proposed $16 Trillion in spending for infrastructure and climate change. He was not the candidate, unfortunately, and by the time Biden was inaugurated, climate groups had brought that down to $10 Trillion. President Joe Biden compromised and asked for $6 Trillion. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is allegedly a Democrat, asked for $4 Trillion in spending. Then, in August, a group of Democratic and Republican Senators came together to propose a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. The Bipartisan Bill is worth $1.5 Trillion, and invests significantly less in climate change, as well as things like paid family leave, and doesn’t raise taxes on the rich. The Bipartisan Bill also serves as a giant giveaway to corporate America, with an asset recycling program, which would allow private companies to lease roads, bridges and airports. Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has written a robust $3.5 Trillion bill through the reconciliation process that did allow for drug prices to be lowered, investment in climate change and paid family leave, and raised taxes on the rich to pay for it. Unfortunately, that bill has been gutted by centrist Democrats to $1.75 Trillion, and Senator Manchin still refuses to support it while accusing Progressives of refusing to compromise.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another so-called Democrat, has refused to vote for a bill that raises taxes on the rich, while Manchin refuses to support a bill that would harm the fossil fuel industry, while demanding work requirements for the proposed Child Tax Credit, and cuts to paid leave. Sinema and Manchin have both raised over one million dollars for their re-elections this quarter, very little of it coming from individual donors. Sinema has raised around $28,000 from the pharmaceutical industry. Senator Manchin owns stock in several coal companies and rakes in half a million dollars a year from his investments. Manchin’s daughter is Heather Bresch, the former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Myan, which makes EpiPens, got in trouble in 2016 for jacking up the prices significantly. I don’t think we’ll ever know why they oppose the reconciliation bill.
Manchin and Sinema have been confronted in public repeatedly over the past couple months about this issue. Manchin was approached by protesters on boats while relaxing on his yacht in the Potomac River and has been confronted by students on hunger strike in Washington, D.C. His response has been defensive or telling protesters to call his office (they have). On the other hand, Senator Sinema has blatantly ignored most protesters, and recently, while confronted by a constituent from Tucson, replied, in a disgusted voice, “Don’t Touch Me!” (she didn’t touch her), and then turned to Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina to apologize to him for her constituent. Is this how our public servants really see us?
Manchin and Sinema aren’t the only Democrats standing in the way. Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Tom Carper of Delaware don’t support the portion of the Biden-Sanders agenda that would allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. On top of that, in the House, Representatives Carolyn Bordeaux of Georgia, Ed Case of Hawaii, Henry Cuellar of Texas (who endorsed George Bush in 2000), Jim Costa of California, Jared Golden of Maine, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Filemon Vela of Texas and Kurt Schrader of Oregon, have all opposed the reconciliation bill. Manchin, Sinema and the Representatives listed have refused to pass the reconciliation bill until the bipartisan bill is passed. The Progressive Caucus, led by Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, has refused to vote for the bipartisan bill until reconciliation passes. The standoff has lasted for a few months.
Unfortunately, the reconciliation bill was stripped of many social and climate-related spending provisions due to Conservative Democrats refusing to support it.
We need to invest in climate change, and 3 and a half trillion doesn’t even really cut it. We are in a climate emergency. The month of October alone has seen 2 bomb cyclones strike the United States, flooding New England and California, and knocking down 15 power lines in my home city of Seattle, as well as terrible floods devastating Italy. On November 12, the nations of the world will come together in Glasgow to discuss the future of the climate. It is crucial that climate change be addressed before it is too late, a date that is rapidly approaching.
The US also has, in my opinion, one of the most draconian, barbaric healthcare systems in the world. Insurance companies and drug companies screw over working-class people, while thousands die every year from lack of basic healthcare. People in this country die because they’re $20 short on insulin payments. For Senators Sinema and Menendez and Representative Schrader to refuse to support lowering drug prices is inhumane and corrupt.
Our tax system is deeply backwards as well, corporations pay virtually no taxes, while the poor and working class have a far higher tax burden in terms of percentage of income paid. There is no good reason for Senator Sinema to vehemently oppose raising taxes on the extremely wealthy and corporations (she is not extremely wealthy herself) other than, what I feel is the obvious conclusion, that she simply couldn’t give a shit about people who don’t help her get re-elected.
Since the reconciliation bill has been gutted, Senators Sanders, Warren and Markey, Representative Jayapal, and the Squad (Reps. Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Marie Newman and Ayanna Pressley) should threaten to tank the bill unless the much-needed climate provisions are included. Senator Manchin got his way by threatening to sink the bill, and the progressives should be willing to do the same. With all the corporate giveaways in the bipartisan bill, Manchin would have a hard time letting it die without angering his corporate overlords. Maybe he’ll go back to his yacht and re-think blocking climate action.
Manchin and Sinema need to get out of the way or face political consequences. Sinema is underwater in every poll for Arizona’s 2024 Democratic Senatorial Primary, and Manchin is favored to lose his seat to a Republican in the same year. Manchin and Sinema deserve to lose their seats, but if they go, other Senators will be there to oppose a progressive agenda, such as the previously mentioned Menedez and Carper, and others like California’s Dianne Feinstein, who became extremely touchy when confronted by teens about the Green New Deal in 2019, and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, who are eager to blame the Progressive Caucus for Centrist Democrat Terry McAuliffe losing the Virginia Governor’s race on Tuesday. Manchin and Sinema need to lose, and progressives/leftists need to be willing to run primary challenges against these Senators and Representatives. The fate of the climate is too important.
None of the conservative politicians listed had any issue supporting the annual expansion of the US military budget, which will cost more over 10 years than reconciliation, and which is by far the largest piece of our budget and is among the world’s top polluters. They have no issue spending trillions that were complicit in bombing people in other countries, supporting dictators and training corrupt militaries and secret police forces, but the thought of spending money to stave off the worst effects of climate change or help working mothers raise their children, is unconscionable to them. If Joe Biden really believes in his agenda, he should do the same hard work Sanders and the Squad have been doing and put pressure on the Democrats standing in the way. If he doesn’t, he’s proving beyond a reasonable doubt that his agenda isn’t important to him. If this happens, Democrats are making losses in 2022 almost certain, and they will deserve to lose. Unfortunately, those who will face the consequences of a Republican government, (incidentally, not the Democratic politicians and liberal beltway figures responsible for their own failure), won’t deserve it.