On Thursday, ten senators triumphantly stood behind President Joe Biden
as he announced his support for the infrastructure deal
they hammered out; getting five Democrats
and five Republicans
to agree on something was no small feat, and getting the president on board was a significant step forward.
When a bill has the support of both Republicans and Democrats, it is thought to be more representative of what people
want and more capable of withstanding scrutiny.
But, most of the time, that is not what bipartisanship
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
(D-NY) noted the glaring disparities in the group that met at the White House
, writing on Twitter
, "The diversity
of this 'bipartisan coalition' pretty perfectly conveys which communities get centered and which get left behind when leaders prioritize bipartisan dealmaking over inclusive lawmaking (which prioritizes delivering the most impact
possible for the moot court").
Yes, the senators were all white; only 11 senators of color were elected.
But perhaps more importantly, which states
these senators represent: this group is overwhelmingly white, implying that states with a high proportion of people of color and large cities were largely excluded from the discussion.
Only three senators, Lisa Murkowski
(R-Alaska), Bill Cassidy (R-La. ), and Kyrsten Sinema
(D-Ariz.), represent states that are more diverse than the entire country.
Notably, four of the senators, Susan Collins
(R-Maine), Joe Manchin
(D-W.Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) are from states that are among the top five whitest in the country, with populations that are more than 85% white.
“It’s a shame that the bipartisan group does not represent the diversity of the nation’s economy
, needs, and people; larger, more diverse states should have a seat at the table, because the infrastructure package will be critical for big cities and communities of color,” said Darnell Grisby, executive director of TransForm, a transportation and justice advocacy group based in California
“States such as California, New York
, and Texas
have transit systems that serve millions of people and power our nation’s largest economies, and they have ambitious new projects in the works such as high-speed rail. A robust infrastructure package will benefit our entire country, but communities of color often have more to gain as job seekers, commuters, and transit riders; they should be represented in bipartisan legislation.
The infrastructure framework is worth approximately $1.2 trillion over eight years and includes $579 billion in new federal spending on infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, airports, and waterways, with no new tax hikes
to fund the projects.
senators are skeptical of the agreement, especially because it lacks strong climate-change mitigation measures.
Biden has promised to veto the infrastructure bill unless it is accompanied by a larger jobs
package that includes investments in child
care, elder care, affordable housing
, and electric vehicles.
“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I'm not signing it,” Biden said on Thursday, adding, “I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting the rest of it.”
To pass the second bill, Democrats will need to go through a process known as reconciliation, which will allow them to move legislation with a simple majority, and they will need the support of every Democratic senator.
Manchin expressed support for the plan on Thursday, calling reconciliation "inevitable."
However, it is unclear whether this agreement will be implemented at all. Republicans are already opposing it, with Sen. Lindsey Graham
(R-SC) calling it “extortion
,” and Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-KY) blasting Biden for squandering a bipartisan moment.
Republicans have long insisted that any infrastructure package only fund traditional infrastructure items such as roads and bridges.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), for example, is seeking assurances from moderate Democrats that if he votes
for the bipartisan bill, they will not support a reconciliation package.
Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled House will not support a deal that only includes the bipartisan infrastructure package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.) has stated that the House will not move forward “until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill.”
“This is why a bipartisan [package] alone isn’t acceptable. The exclusion & denial of our communities is what DC bipartisan deals require,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday. “That’s how you get GOP
on board: don’t do much/anything for the working class,” including women
, people of color, and unions
“We have to do more,” she declared.