Pelosi says Senate bipartisan infrastructure package may be a tough sell to caucus unless ‘more to come’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said she’s “very pleased” that a deal on a new bipartisan Senate infrastructure package was reached last week, but she warned the proposal might be a tough sell to the House Democratic caucus if more isn’t included.
“I do think that it is predicated on an infrastructure that is of the last century. We have to be thinking in a more forward way. We must build back better. So if this is something that can be agreed upon, I don’t know how we can possibly sell it … to our caucus unless we know there is more to come,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
The $1.2 trillion deal announced Thursday by bipartisan group of 10 senators marked the most significant development yet in negotiations over a key priority of the Biden administration.
But should the proposal make it to the House, it might face some opposition from progressive Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who said later on “State of the Union” that she might not vote for it because she believes it doesn’t adequately address climate change.
Speaking to Bash on Sunday, Pelosi also expressed concern over the possibility of a gas tax included to pay for the proposal.
President Joe Biden “is a major factor in this, and he has said he would not support any taxes on people making under $400,000 a year and that includes increasing the gas tax, which I think might be part of their arrangement,” she said.
When asked if she would support the bipartisan Senate package if it meant Democrats can pass a larger, more sweeping bill later, she said, “We’ll just see.”
“As Congress works its will, we’ll just see what the possibilities are. This is one step,” she added.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was one of the negotiators on the bipartisan deal, told CBS on Sunday that there will not be a gas tax increase as part of how the plan is paid for and reiterated that the proposal’s focus is on the “traditional infrastructure definition” and would not include child care and elderly care.
Asked by Bash later on CNN’s “State of the Union” if she would vote for the package if it comes to the House, Ocasio-Cortez replied: “I think from what we’ve seen so far and particularly the lack of climate action, as well, I think adding to the severe lowering of our scope and scale in what we’re seeking to do … I doubt it, frankly, in the current state of that proposal.”
“I think one of the things that’s really important to communicate is that this isn’t just $1.7 trillion, this is about an overall investment spread out over anywhere between eight to 10 years, which is a very, very low amount of money,” she added. “It’s not going to create the millions of union jobs we need in this country, particularly to recover from the pandemic, and it’s not going to get us closer to meeting our climate goals, which are crucially important at this time.”
Pelosi told Bash she believes there are Republicans who want to work on infrastructure in good faith and that the American people want to see lawmakers “come to terms in a bipartisan way.”
But she charged that Republicans don’t wish to work with Democrats on other issues, pointing to the partisan divide over Democrats’ sweeping election bill, HR 1. The legislation faces a tough path forward in an evenly split Senate, made all the more difficult for Democrats by opposition from a few of their party’s senators.
Pelosi said she had spoken with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is against the bill, and feels optimistic he can come to terms on the legislation.
“I don’t give up on Joe Manchin. When he was governor and secretary of state in West Virginia, he initiated many of the ideas that are in the HR1, S1, the ‘For the People Act,’ ” she said, adding, “I do know he has certain concerns about the legislation that we may be able to come to terms on.”