Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill as a ‘progressive victory’

GettyImages-alexandria-ocasio-cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) passes through the National Statuary Hall January 9, 2020 at the U.S. Capitol.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package announced by Senate Dems on Tuesday.
  • It would stand with the $579 billion infrastructure deal that President Biden struck with the GOP last month.
  • Without progressive lawmakers, she said, “we probably would be stuck with that tiny, pathetic bipartisan bill alone.”
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package passed by Senate Democrats, calling it a “progressive victory.”

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats agreed on a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package to expand Medicare and strengthen social-safety-net programs, skirting GOP opposition to using more federal spending.

The New York congresswoman said she would have liked a larger package but billed the agreement as an “enormous victory,” according to NY1 reporter Kevin Frey.

“This bill is absolutely a progressive victory,” she said. “If it wasn’t for progressives in the House, we probably would be stuck with that tiny, pathetic bipartisan bill alone.”

The $3.5 trillion package would stand with the $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal that President Joe Biden struck with Republicans last month, and the party-line agreement would amount to $4.1 trillion.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation since the Great Depression, and I’m delighted to be part of having helped to put it together,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters on Tuesday evening.

Senate Democrats expressed confidence that the package would be turned into a bill in the coming weeks, which would make it one of the largest spending bills ever taken up by Congress.

“We are very proud of this plan,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday following the negotiations. “We know we have a long road to go.”

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Trump warns Senate Republicans that they’re ‘being played’ over ‘fake infrastructure proposals’

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio on June 26, 2021.

  • Trump warned Senate Republicans to nix working with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • “You are just being played by the Radical Left Democrats,” the former president said on Friday.
  • Democrats hope to pass a separate and more robust infrastructure bill through reconciliation.
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Former President Donald Trump cautioned Senate Republicans against signing off on a bipartisan infrastructure bill and told GOP legislators to maintain the tax cuts that the party enacted during his tenure.

In a statement on Friday, Trump derided Republican members who are working with President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats as RINOs, or Republicans in name only, a pejorative generally reserved for members of the party who aren’t considered to be true conservatives.

“Very important that Senate Republicans not allow our hard-earned tax reductions to be terminated or amended in an upward trajectory in any way, shape, or form,” the former president said. “They should not be making deals on increasing taxes for the fake infrastructure proposals being put forward by Democrats, almost all of which goes to the ridiculous Green New Deal Marxist agenda.”

He added: “Keep the Trump Administrations [sic] tax cuts just where they are. Do not allow tax increases. Thinking about it, I have never seen anything so easy to win politically. Also, RINO Republicans should stop negotiating the infrastructure bill – you are just being played by the Radical Left Democrats – they will give you nothing!”

Last month, the White House and a bipartisan group of senators came to an agreement on a $1 trillion infrastructure framework that included funding for physical projects such as roads and bridges.

Read more: Joe Biden just fired a top Trump holdover at the Social Security Administration, but these 7 other Trump-era officials are still holding high-level government positions

Republicans overwhelmingly oppose any infrastructure bill that raises corporate taxes, a key element of Biden’s earlier infrastructure proposal that would have struck at the heart of Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. That law cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Democrats also hope to pass a separate infrastructure bill through the reconciliation process, which would allow them to enact legislation without the threat of a filibuster.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a leading moderate, said last month that he would consider changes to the Trump-era tax cuts, which were also passed through the reconciliation process on a party-line vote.

“Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it,” he told NBC News. “I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wants to pursue a more robust Democratic-led $6 trillion reconciliation bill.

“The president has given us a framework, I think it’s a comprehensive and serious framework,” he said last month. “It is the function of the Congress now to take that framework and go with it. I think it is absolutely imperative that we deal with the existential threat of climate change, that we lower the cost of prescription drugs, that we make sure elderly people can chew their food because we expand Medicare to dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses.”

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National Review editor blasts GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham as ‘an idiot’ over infrastructure claims in scathing op-ed

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol on March 5, 2021.

  • Editor Philip Klein blasted Sen. Graham for his stance on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • Graham criticized Democratic attempts to link the negotiated legislation with a reconciliation bill.
  • In an op-ed, Klein argues that Republicans are being “duped” by President Biden.
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The editor of the conservative National Review Online on Friday called Sen. Lindsey Graham “an idiot” for thinking that President Joe Biden would approve bipartisan infrastructure legislation in the absence of a Democratic-led reconciliation bill.

In an op-ed column, Philip Klein gave a harsh assessment of the South Carolina Republican’s political acumen.

“Sen. Lindsey Graham is an idiot,” he wrote. “Don’t take it from me. Take it from Graham himself.”

Late last month, following weeks of bipartisan efforts to craft an infrastructure deal, Biden lauded the roughly $1 trillion legislative compromise. However, when the president linked signing the legislation to a separate reconciliation bill, Republicans in the group balked.

Biden quickly walked back his comments, which many perceived to be a veto threat, reassuring Republicans that he was committed to the bipartisan bill.

“The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the Infrastructure Plan, and that’s what I intend to do,” Biden said in a statement last month. “I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to … with vigor. It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.”

Graham, enraged over Biden’s earlier statement, accused the president of making the GOP “look like a f—ing idiot” for attempting to tie the two bills together.

However, Klein noted that “yet a week later, Graham is back on board with the bipartisan deal citing a statement Biden made to reassure Republicans.”

Read more: Meet 7 BidenWorld longtime consiglieres and a couple of relative newcomers who have access to exclusive White House meetings

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that the Democratic-controlled chamber wouldn’t take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until she saw a Senate bill passed through reconciliation.

“Our caucus is very, very pleased with the bipartisan agreement that the President was able to achieve working with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate,” Pelosi said at the time. “What I said last week and I reiterate now is that in the House of Representatives that particular version as it is is something that we would take up once we see what the budget parameters are of the budget bill that the Senate will pass.”

Democrats want to pursue a larger bill through the Senate, using the reconciliation budget process that could survive in the 50-50 Senate with unanimous party support and a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

The second bill would focus on longstanding Democratic priorities including childcare, healthcare, and climate change, among other issues.

Klein argued that Pelosi’s comments show that “both Congressional Democrats and the White House view the two bills as linked. The only ones who don’t seem to understand that are Graham and the rest of the Republicans participating in the charade.”

He concluded: “Any Republican who signs on to this pile of hot garbage should be laughed at for getting duped by Biden. As Graham himself put it, ‘You look like a f—ing idiot now.'”

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Mitch McConnell could blow up the bipartisan infrastructure deal after Biden reassured Senate Republicans

Mitch McConnell tan suit
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

  • Mitch McConnell jeopardized Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal on Monday.
  • Biden said last Thursday that the deal was tied to another, Democratic-only reconciliation bill.
  • After Biden walked those comments back, McConnell insisted Pelosi and Schumer have to follow suit.
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President Joe Biden toiled for months on bipartisan negotiations before saying “we have a deal” on a $1 trillion infrastructure package last week. But when the president explicitly linked that deal to a separate Democratic-only spending package, it looked in danger just a day later.

Biden walked back his comments over the weekend, reassuring many Republicans and saving the deal. But Mitch McConnell had a fresh demand on Monday.

On Monday morning, the Senate Minority Leader called on Biden to ensure Congressional Democrats follow his lead.

The Kentucky Republican released a statement saying Biden had “appropriately” reversed course from his comments on Thursday linking the two bills.

McConnell demanded Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should also “walk-back their threats” to only move the bipartisan agreement and a Democrat-only package side-by-side.

He added that Biden’s attempt to reassure the GOP “would be a hollow gesture” if Pelosi and Schumer didn’t adopt the same approach. “The President cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process,” he said.

The remarks are the latest salvo hitting the $1 trillion infrastructure deal only four days after it was tentatively forged between Biden and a centrist faction of Democratic and GOP senators. McConnell hasn’t explicitly said he either favors or opposes the plan, and he’s largely attacked it on procedural grounds so far.

But he’s attempting to ward off a separate plan that Democrats are poised to muscle through reconciliation, a strenuous legislative procedure allowing the Senate to clear budgetary bills on a simple majority vote. It will likely include tax hikes on wealthy Americans and corporations, along with spending on childcare, education, and healthcare.

McConnell’s opposition may potentially derail the package, as it could dampen support among Republicans for the deal.

On Saturday, Biden backed down from his threat to reject the package and said he had never meant to give that impression. “I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that’s what I intend to do,” Biden said in a statement.

Still, Schumer and Pelosi have long said they are operating on two tracks: approving the bipartisan deal and the follow-up party-line package. Progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are pressing Democrats to not scale down their political and economic ambitions to secure GOP votes.

Pelosi on Thursday said “There ain’t gonna be no bipartisan bill, unless we are going to have the reconciliation bill.”

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Biden walks back remarks, says he didn’t mean to threaten to veto the bipartisan infrastructure bill

joe biden
President Joe Biden makes brief remarks while hosting Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, in the Oval Office at the White House June 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • President Joe Biden said he hadn’t intended to threaten a veto on a bipartisan bill.
  • Biden previously said “I’m not signing it” without passing another Democratic antipoverty plan.
  • Republicans had called Biden’s remarks “extortion” and threatened to withdraw support.
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President Joe Biden said Saturday that he hadn’t meant to threaten a veto on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

On Thursday, Biden triggered Republican backlash when he said the infrastructure bill would need to move in “tandem” with his American Families Plan, a bill brimming with Democratic priorities like childcare and healthcare.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said Thursday, referring to the sole infrastructure bill. In response, a number of Republican senators called Biden’s remarks “extortion” and threatened to withdraw their support.

“It was never suggested to me during these negotiations that President Biden was holding hostage the bipartisan infrastructure proposal unless a liberal reconciliation package was also passed,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted Friday.

On Saturday, Biden acknowledged that his comments “understandably upset some Republicans, who do not see the two plans as linked” and confirmed he would support the bipartisan infrastructure bill independently of any others.

“My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

“The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the Infrastructure Plan, and that’s what I intend to do,” Biden added. “I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to on Thursday, with vigor. It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people.”

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An 1870s-era rail tunnel used by Amtrak could be a possible beneficiary of federal infrastructure funding

Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel
An Amtrak train emerges from the 1870s-era Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Amtrak and Maryland released a plan for a new $4 billion tunnel along the vital Northeast Corridor.
  • The new tunnel would replace the existing 1870s-era tubes, which are a major rail chokepoint.
  • As Congress debates a new infrastructure bill, projects like the Baltimore tunnel stand to benefit.
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Amtrak and the state of Maryland last week came to an agreement on a $4 billion plan to replace the deteriorating Baltimore & Potomac (B&P) Tunnel in Baltimore, a key bottleneck along Amtrak’s heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor, according to The Washington Post.

The replacement tunnel is slated to be built in the next decade, with the tunnel having the ability to transport electric-powered trains.

For years, the current tunnel has transported Amtrak, Maryland’s MARC commuter trains, and commercial rail traffic through the state’s largest city.

But trains slow down to 30 miles per hour along the 148-year-old two-track tunnel, which often creates delays throughout the rail corridor.

A replacement tunnel, roughly half a mile north of the existing tubes, would allow trains to move up to 100 miles per hour. It would be named after the noted abolitionist and Maryland native Frederick Douglass.

According to The Post, the B&P Tunnel, built in 1873 and the oldest tunnel inherited by Amtrak, is “the biggest chokepoint between Washington and New Jersey.”

Read more: Meet 7 BidenWorld longtime consiglieres and a couple relative newcomers who have access to exclusive White House meetings

Funding has not yet been appropriated for the project, which would need federal and state money to proceed.

As Congress tries to hammer out a comprehensive infrastructure plan, projects like the B&P Tunnel reflect what is at stake in the national debate over the country’s aging transportation networks.

amtrak joe biden
US Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters after arriving on an Amtrak train for a campaign stop in Alliance, Ohio, on September 30, 2020.

While there has been no guarantee of money for the B&P Tunnel project, President Joe Biden, who routinely took Amtrak during his 36-year Senate career representing Delaware and is one of the railroad service’s biggest advocates, would likely identify the new tunnel to lawmakers as an exigent project.

Four years ago, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposed a replacement project that would have included four single-track tunnel tubes, while the current plan calls for two tunnel tubes to be built, according to The Post.

Two additional tunnel tubes could then be constructed in a potential second phase of construction, according to Amtrak.

The FRA has classified the current tunnel as “structurally deficient,” with Amtrak stating that it “is not suited for modern high-speed train operations due to tight clearances and sharp curves.”

Amtrak is asking for $257 million for the project from Congress this year.

GOP Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland last week emphasized the multi-jurisdictional importance of the B&P Tunnel project.

“This is a critical project not just for Baltimore and the state of Maryland, but for the entire Northeast Corridor of the United States, and we plan to work with Amtrak and the federal government to move it forward as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

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