Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cautioned President Biden against compromising on a bipartisan infrastructure package, calling on the White House to avoid being "limited by Republicans" on the size and scope of the next economic spending bill.
The progressive firebrand weighed in on the hesitation of some Senate Republicans to support an infrastructure deal after Biden threatened to veto it unless it was accompanied by a larger, multitrillion-dollar reconciliation bill that included Democratic priorities like addressing child and elder care, health care and climate change. Biden later walked back the declaration and reiterated his support for the measure.
"In those areas where there is agreement, Republicans are more than welcome to join so that we can get this work on infrastructure done," Ocasio-Cortez said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But that doesn’t mean the president should be limited by Republicans, particularly when we have a House majority, we have 50 Democratic senators and we have the White House."
Biden announced last week that the White House had struck an agreement with a bipartisan group of senators for a pared-down bill that included $559 billion in new spending that will be invested in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other traditional infrastructure projects over the next five years.
The plan will be funded from a variety of sources, including reducing the IRS tax gap, redirecting unused federal unemployment money from the 26 states that are prematurely ending the relief program and repurposing other COVID-relief measures.
But some Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez, want the promise of another sweeping reconciliation package that would dramatically expand the nation's social safety net and pay for it by hiking taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations. With their slimmest-possible 50-50 majority, Democrats can’t lose a single vote on a reconciliation bill.
"This is our one big shot, not just in terms of family, child care, Medicare, but on climate change," Ocasio-Cortez said.
Biden seemingly endorsed that strategy on Thursday, telling reporters during a White House press conference that he would not sign the measure without a separate "human infrastructure" and climate change package that includes his other economic priorities. But his comments angered Republicans who said they didn't expect the White House to explicitly link the two bills; the president he later clarified that he was not "issuing a veto threat on the very plan I just agreed to."
Democrats triggered the start of the budget reconciliation process last week and are considering a sweeping $6 trillion package that would build on Biden's $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.