Rep. Jayapal on progressive priorities, compromise on reconciliation and infrastructure

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Congress' efforts around reconciliation and infrastructure.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And earlier today, we spoke to a key figure in Congress' efforts around reconciliation and infrastructure.

    She's Democratic Congresswoman from Washington state and chair of the congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal.

    Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you very much for being with us.

    You have laid down what has been described as an ultimatum, that unless the Senate passes this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, you and other members of the Progressive Caucus will not support the infrastructure legislation, which we know there is support for in both parties.

    Why not?

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA):

    Well, Judy, thanks so much for having me on.

    The key here is, we are willing and able and ready to vote for both bills that deliver the entirety of the president's agenda to his desk. That is both the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill.

    But the agreement was made in the Senate — and, in fact, just today, 11 senators put out a statement saying that the only reason they voted for the bipartisan bill out of the Senate was because they had a commitment that the reconciliation and the infrastructure bill would continue to be tied together and that we would not pass the bipartisan until the reconciliation bill was passed.

    We are sticking to that agreement. That is actually something we have said for the last three months. And a majority of our members feel strongly that we can't allow one piece to go forward, the roads and bridges, which is important, but a much smaller package, and then not allow child care to go forward, not allow paid leave, not allow people to have affordable housing, not to take on climate change.

    Those are the things that are in the Build Back Better Act that are the president's agenda, the Democratic agenda that we ran on. So we have been very clear that we are ready, willing and able to vote for both bills. But, first, we need to pass the reconciliation bill. And then we will vote for the infrastructure bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, as you know, Congresswoman, moderate members of your party are calling this — I mean, one of them use the term political grandstanding.

    They say that you are at least within shouting distance of getting that bipartisan infrastructure bill, but you're jeopardizing that because of the demands you're making about the larger bill.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal:

    Well, I would just say, respectfully, to my colleagues, there was an agreement made, and because people wanted to grandstand, they put an artificial date of Monday, September 27, on the table to vote for both these bills.

    Now, we have not gotten the entirety of the reconciliation package determined. And so we need a little bit more time. There's nothing specific about Monday, September 27. Why wouldn't we just continue the work to get these bills both done, make sure the reconciliation bill is agreed to, and then we will all happily vote for both?

    But the reality is, if you remember, the bipartisan infrastructure bill was supposed to be done three months before it got done. But it kept taking longer and longer.

    So why is it that we allow that to go forward with more time, but now, when it comes to the reconciliation bill, about 70 percent of the priorities, meaning that women can go back to work and get child care and paid leave and health care for everybody and community college, all these critically important things, that suddenly there's an arbitrary date of Monday the 27th?

    Let us finish our work. Monday is an arbitrary date. Let's finish our work. And let's get both bills to the president's agenda, because this is the Democratic agenda.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of the president, you are headed to the White House this afternoon, along with other members of Congress, to talk to the president about all this.

    He's clearly going to try to reach some kind of a compromise. Are you prepared to give ground, to agree to a smaller number, for example, in the bigger reconciliation bill?

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal:

    Actually, $3.5 trillion was the smaller number.

    If you remember, our original request was for $6 trillion. And 3.5 was the agreement that was — that we made and that the senators made.

    But I will just say this. I like to think about this, first of all, as a $0 bill, because, Judy, all of it is going to be paid for by taxes on the wealthiest corporations and wealthiest individuals, something, by the way, that makes the package even more popular across the country when you tell people that the richest people in this country are going to pay their fair share.

    Secondly, I would just say that the number is not arbitrary. It comes from being able to provide universal child care, paid leave, all of those things. So if somebody wants to propose that that's too much, tell me what you're going to cut out, because, unless I see that, I have no way to make a determination.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just very quickly, one more question on this.

    Do you think it's possible you could see both bills go down because of this disagreement?

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal:

    No, I really think that we're all one — part of the same team.

    What I say all the time is, there are a lot of my members who don't like the bipartisan bill. It's not just that they think it's too small and that it doesn't do enough. But they actually think that there are some provisions in there that they would — that would hurt some of our goals around climate justice and climate — taking on climate change.

    And yet they are willing to be big adults in the room and say, I know I'm not going to love everything, but I need to get the reconciliation bill so that I can address all these other priorities and make transformational changes.

    We need others, conservative Democrats, to do the same thing. They wrote the bipartisan bill. We did not. We are working on the reconciliation bill. They're going to have to also come to the table and recognize it's the Democratic agenda, the president's agenda that we are pushing for.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One separate issue I do want to ask you about, Congresswoman.

    And that is, we learned today that negotiations between the two houses and between the two parties have to come up with an agreement on a police reform bill have fallen apart. What can Democrats do now on their own, if anything, on this important issue?

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal:

    It is just heartbreaking to know that.

    I know that Senator Booker and Karen Bass and others worked so hard on this agreement to get it to be bipartisan, to try to get 60 votes.

    But let me just say that this is another example of how the filibuster is preventing movement on this critically important issue of police accountability, of fairness and justice in policing. And we passed the bill in the House. The problem is in the Senate.

    And I understand there's some good Republican senators who tried to work on a deal. But getting 10 additional votes from a Senate that has not been good on civil rights, not been good on voting rights, is a pipe dream. So I think we have to reform the filibuster for issues around — well, I think we need to reform it, period.

    But we should at least have carve-outs for things like voting rights, police reform, and so many other important civil rights and constitutional rights issues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, filibuster certainly enough for another conversation.

    We're going to leave it there. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the House Progressive Caucus, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal:

    Thank you, Judy.

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