Progressives Are Urging Schumer to Restart Push for Climate and Social Spending

Progressive groups are asking Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to restart negotiations on the budget reconciliation package that contains the bulk of President Joe Biden’s social and climate agenda, which passed the House under the banner of “Build Back Better” before stalling in the Senate last year.

Refusals by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and other centrists to support the legislation prevented the Senate’s razor-thin Democratic majority from reaching a 50-member consensus necessary for passage. The bill would have needed to pass through the special “budget reconciliation” process in order to dodge Republican obstruction in the evenly divided Senate.

Social and environmental advocates are emphasizing that there’s still a dire need to pass the policies the Build Back Better bill contained. Democrats are currently rallying for spending on climate change and clean energy programs. Progressive groups claim that relief for working people is essential due to the rising costs of fuel, food and other necessities.

In an open letterSchumer released Monday’s statement that a coalition of 120 progressive organizations stated that the urgency behind the legislation now is greater than when the House approved it in November 2021. Schumer should restart negotiations over the legislation “energetically,” the groups said, and sections of the bill where there is “significant agreement” should start moving through committees now.

“Working people are facing rising costs for food, health care and other necessities and median rent prices rose an astounding 20 percent in 2021, furthering a national housing crisis,” the groups wrote. “Taking steps to decarbonize and build a green economy becomes more pressing by the day.”

Biden and many Democrats wanted to finance new climate initiatives through budget reconciliation. But Manchin refused to grant them. $1.7 trillionPrice tag and proposals to move the country away form coal and other fossil fuels. Manchin argued that inflation would increase if there was more spending. Manchin has indicated that he may support a modified package that funds new programs and taxes on corporations and wealthy that could be used to reduce the federal deficit. This is a top priority for the conservative Democrat. accordingTo read more.

Even if Manchin is supportive of a new package there are concerns that Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona conservative Democrat, may oppose tax hikes on corporations, top earners, and other businesses. To pass the package, both senators must vote.

The package is currently undergoing a rebranding. Biden did not say the words “Build Back Better” in his recent state of the union speech, and Schumer did not mention Build Back Better by name in a recent letterTo colleagues that identified Democratic priorities prior to a retreat of lawmakers.

“In reconciliation, Senate Democrats have introduced additional legislative proposals to lower the rising cost of energy, prescription drugs and health care, and the costs of raising a family,” Schumer wrote to fellow Democrats. “Senate Democrats are focused on delivering on our promise to fight these rising costs.”

The open letter Schumer was released Monday by a coalition progressive groups. It did not contain the words Build back Better. They called the legislation a “reconciliation package” instead.

It remains to be seen if the package will be given a new name. Progressives want Democrats to pass as much as possible of the original package through the Senate. This may mean that the bill will be broken up into smaller pieces.

In a letter to Biden on Monday, a group of 89 House Democrats said that $555 billion in climate investments included in the House-passed bill could serve as a “building block” to restart negotiations.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), the window for salvaging a sustainable world is closing fast. Last year, the U.S. was hit hard by climate change’s effects on extreme weather and wildfires. Given widespread agreement over the bill’s climate provisions in the Senate, the lawmakers wrote, the climate measures provide Biden and Schumer with a “key starting point” for negotiations.

“Responding now will protect American families and businesses against the most devastating financial impacts,” they wrote. “But the longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to transition at the speed required, and we will have incurred billions in damages and harm to our communities, infrastructure, environment, and public health and safety along the way.”

Maurice Mitchell is the national director for the Working Families Party. He stated that Democrats have a mandate and must deliver after voters gave them control in 2020 of Congress and the White House.

“They can rightly take credit for significant accomplishments, especially the American Rescue Plan,” Mitchell said in a statement. “But with the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit, and with investments in children and families, health care, elder care, housing, and climate hanging in the balance, the work is unfinished.”