Rep. Pramila Jayapal Talks About Ongoing Infrastructure Negotiations
SCOTT DETROW, HOST:
And as climate change manifests itself more and more in weather patterns like extreme drought and wildfires, many progressives in Congress are increasingly worried climate is getting squeezed out as President Biden tries to craft an infrastructure bill Republicans could vote for. A new round of talks is underway among moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. They say they have a framework of a deal, but a lot of details are not known. What is known has many progressives in both the House and Senate saying they might vote against it if it ever gets to the floor. Among them, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Progressive Caucus. Good morning. Thanks for joining us.
PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Good morning, Scott.
DETROW: I'm struck by this. I talked to you around the time that the American Rescue Plan came to a vote. You were frustrated things weren't in it, including a minimum wage increase. But you said, you know what? At the end of the day, I'm going to vote for this bill. You are saying something very different right now.
JAYAPAL: Well, that's right. Because the "proposal" - and I say that with quotes around it - we haven't actually seen a proposal. But this latest announcement from a group of senators, it really is so far away from what we need. And, you know, proposing 526 billion in new spending, which clearly is nothing near what - the 2.3 trillion that President Biden proposed. Not to mention, if you add on the jobs - the Families Plan, we believe that the country is ready - Republicans, Democrats and independents - for a big, bold Jobs and Families Plan.
And we don't think that 10 Republicans are going to come along with us on any of these things, Scott, because that's just not the history. It's not what they did for the Rescue Plan. It's not what they did for the January 6 commission. Five and a half weeks ago, Mitch McConnell said 100% of his focus is on stopping the Biden agenda.
DETROW: And that's why...
JAYAPAL: So let's just go in big, bold and fast.
DETROW: And that's why you and other Democrats are saying it's time to just go back to reconciliation and do that with Democratic-only votes. But isn't it true right now that there are not 50 Democratic votes in the Senate for an infrastructure proposal around the lines of what the president initially pushed for?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think that's why there has been this bipartisan negotiation. But at some point, you have to cut that off. And let's put our big, bold package up for a vote. And I believe we will get 50 Democratic votes for it because, again, Republicans, Democrats and independents want to see this enacted.
DETROW: Is this just a conversation, in the end, around Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema? And if so, how do you get them to vote for the type of climate proposals, the other measures that you're talking about that you and so many progressives say are absolutely needed?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think you'd think about - it's actually not about Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. It's about the American people, and that's where I keep coming back to with the American Rescue Plan. The reason that worked was because the president leaned in very, very urgently to his bold vision. He said we're going to get this done because it's what the American people want, and he did the negotiating to say - within our party to say, I'm the leader of the party. Let's get this done. And we got it done. And then Republicans went back after voting no and tried to claim credit for it. So I think the same thing will happen with the Jobs and Families Plan. The president needs to lean in. Democrats need to realize that this is our moment to deliver for the American people, and I think we can get that done.
DETROW: You, of course, represent Washington state. We just heard about major drought challenges and probably another bad wildfire season there. You know, again, a lot of the details of this current negotiated proposal are not known right now, but what are the specific climate policies you are worried would not be in a proposal like that?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think any of the bold policy pieces that we need - from, you know, investing in the EV infrastructure, to all of the work around the clean energy standard - we are afraid will be left out of any such package - smaller package. And the reality is, Scott, you know, we're at the G-7 right now, the United States, pushing for bold climate action around the world. If we can't show that we can do that here at home and that we can also invest in a bold infrastructure package and a Families package, then a lot of our world leadership is undermined. We can't do it at home. We can't go out and, you know, push and lead the rest of the world to do that, as well.
The climate crisis is urgent. Your report just showed that. But there's a million ways in which we're seeing it over and over again that climate change is real and that we have to address it. And Republicans have been incalcitrant on really addressing the kinds of policies that we need to do that.
DETROW: That's Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal - represents Washington state, a top progressive in the House. Thank you so much for joining us.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Scott.
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