WASHINGTON — Representative Ayanna Pressley of Boston was among six House Democrats — all members of “The Squad” of progressive lawmakers of color — who voted against the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that the House approved late Friday night, saying party leaders reneged on a promise to pass it in tandem with sweeping social spending and climate change legislation.
“I refuse to choose between the livelihoods of the union workers who build our highways and bridges, and the childcare and healthcare workers who care for our children, elderly, and disabled loved ones,” Pressley said in a written statement after the vote. “I refuse to choose between our crumbling roads, bridges public transit system, and our crumbling housing stock. I refuse to pit community member against community member.”
The House approved the infrastructure legislation 228-206 after weeks of infighting among progressive and moderate Democrats over the larger social spending and climate change bill, known as the Build Back Better Act. The Senate had passed the infrastructure bill last summer and it now heads to President Biden for his signature.
Pressley was joined by other members of The Squad, a group of progressive lawmakers of color in the House, to oppose the infrastructure bill. They included the other three representatives who originally formed The Squad after they all were first elected to the House in 2018 — Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — and two new members who won seats last fall, Jamaal Bowman of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri.
The Democrats have an extremely narrow 221-213 House majority. But the opposition of Pressley and the others was offset by 13 Republicans who voted for the bill despite pressure from GOP leaders.
With moderate Democrats balking at the price tag — originally $3.5 trillion, now cut in half at their insistence — and the scope of that second bill, House progressives had sought to use their votes on the infrastructure bill as leverage to ensure the Build Back Better Act also became law. But pressure increased for House Democrats to approve the infrastructure bill after the party’s loss on Tuesday in the governor’s race in Virginia, a state Biden won by 10 percentage points in last November’s election.
During frantic negotiations since then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed progressives to vote for the House infrastructure bill in tandem with a procedural vote on the Build Back Better Act, with the promise from a handful of recalcitrant moderates that they would vote for full approval once the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finishes an assessment of the bill’s impact on the deficit.
The deal was good enough for most of the 95 House members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but not Pressley and the other members of the Squad.
“For months, my progressive colleagues and I have been calling for bold investments to address both the human and physical infrastructure needs of our country,” she said in her statement. “We have been clear from the onset that any vote on the narrow roads and bridges bill must happen in tandem with a vote on the Build Back Better Act that invests in our care economy, housing, paid leave, combating climate change, and more.”
Because House leaders did not honor that agreement, Pressley said she had to oppose the infrastructure bill.
“As lawmakers, we have a duty to deliver policies and budgets that have a meaningful and tangible impact on the daily lives of our constituents and leave no community behind,” she said. “I look forward to continuing the work of passing the president’s full Build Back Better agenda.”
Jim Puzzanghera can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JimPuzzanghera.