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Senate Progressives Warn Joe Biden That He Will Need Their Votes As Well.
Joe Biden

Senate Progressives Warn Joe Biden That He Will Need Their Votes As Well.

As infrastructure talks enter a new phase this week, progressives are reminding Joe Biden's administration that Sen. Joe Manchin (W. Va.) is not the only Democrat who requires attention.

Biden formally ended talks with a top Senate Republican on a package aimed at overhauling the nation's infrastructure system on Tuesday, shifting his focus to a larger bipartisan group of senators that includes moderates like Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). That group is drafting its own proposal in the hopes of reaching an agreement that can then be taken to the White House.

Progressive senators, who have so far remained silent during infrastructure negotiations, have become more vocal this week about their priorities, such as investments aimed at electrifying the nation's vehicles to combat climate change, being excluded from the final agreement.

A pair of climate hawks reacted angrily to comments made by Biden's climate adviser Gina McCarthy, who told Politico on Tuesday that given the realities of a 50-50 Senate, some of the administration's far-reaching climate proposals could be dropped from the infrastructure package.

In response to McCarthy's remarks, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) tweeted Wednesday, "An infrastructure package that is light on climate and clean energy should not count on every Democratic vote."

“Just a gentle, friendly reminder that the executive branch does not write the bills,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) added.

Even if the Biden administration manages to secure the ten Republican votes needed to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package, which appears unlikely at the moment, it will also require the support of every Senate Democrat.

“You should not assume that a bipartisan package will have 50 Democratic votes,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters on Monday.

Progressives were already disappointed by the climate portions of Biden's initial infrastructure plan, which, while representing a historic high for spending on clean energy and climate change, fell far short of what advocates had hoped for and what scientists say is required to reduce carbon emissions in the American economy to zero.

McCarthy acknowledged that climate activists would be disappointed, but said they should continue to "hype" the plan in a private call reported on by Stardia shortly after the plan's release.

“I don’t know if we’ll meet your size expectations, but it will undoubtedly have a transformative impact on our economy,” she said.

So far, the complaints have come from lower-profile progressives like Schatz and Heinrich, rather than from the Senate’s leaders on the left, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). While both have generically suggested Biden should not spend too much time negotiating with Republicans, neither has specifically threatened to withhold their vote for an infrastrural bill.

Even as the Biden administration continues to seek Republican votes on infrastructure, Democrats are moving forward with a special budget process known as reconciliation, which will allow Democrats to avoid a filibuster and pass a bill unilaterally on a party-line vote.

However, key Democratic moderates like Manchin and Sinema have indicated their preference to exhaust all possible efforts to reach a bipartisan outcome before moving on to reconciliation. As a result, for the time being, the Biden administration must satisfy the two senators and engage in another round of bipartisan talks if they are to rely on Manchin and Sinema's votes for Democratic bills in the coming Congressional session.

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