AOC urges Schumer, Pelosi to keep immigration, housing funding intact in reconciliation bill

Progressives lay out new demands for reconciliation bill

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on Democratic leaders to ensure that funding for immigration reform and affordable housing remains in a sweeping reconciliation bill as party officials weigh across-the-board cuts to the multitrillion-dollar tax and spending package.

In a Friday letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the progressive firebrand requested the forthcoming bill include at least $328 billion combined for public housing, transportation for low-income communities and immigration. 

"The Build Back Better reconciliation package is a once in a generation opportunity to build a sustainable and prosperous future for our country – affordable housing, quality sustainable and accessible public transportation, and sound immigration reform must remain priorities in the debate," Ocasio-Cortez wrote alongside seven progressive House Democrats.


The lawmakers requested $207 billion total to establish a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamer immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, essential workers and farmworkers. 

"It is vital that we preserve the entirety of this funding allocation, not only because these communities have been the backbone of our national economy throughout this pandemic and beyond, but also because the U.S. is their only home and refuge from the political, economic, and climate disasters they are fleeing," the letter said.

Immigration reform has become a crucial part of reconciliation talks, with several Democrats threatening to withhold support for the spending bill unless it includes citizenship provisions. 

Still, it's unclear whether the Senate parliamentarian, a nonpartisan referee who determines which provisions may be included in a reconciliation package, would support the inclusion of immigration reform. Provisions are subject to the so-called "Byrd rule," which prevents "extraneous" provisions from being included in reconciliation so that only items affecting the federal budget can be included.


The left-wing Democrats also pressed Schumer, D-N.Y., and Pelosi, D-Calif., to ensure that $207 billion for public housing, some of which would go toward establishing and preserving affordable homes, as well as rental assistance, stay in the reconciliation bill. They sought another $14 billion to boost mobility for low-income individuals and to connect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments.

"As you work to finalize the package, we urge you to maintain the level of funding for public and affordable housing, immigration reform and accessible transportation in low-income communities," the letter said. "These priorities are critical to the economic recovery of New York City, and our great nation as a whole." 

Their demands come as Democrats attempt to overcome party infighting that's threatened to derail the marquee piece of legislation, which accounts for the bulk of President Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda.

Biden has intervened to personally attempt to head off the brewing intraparty war between moderates and progressives and has held several meetings with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. According to Politico, the White House is entertaining making major cuts to the reconciliation bill, with an expected range of roughly $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion.  

The question now is whether lawmakers will make small trims to every program they want to include in the sweeping family and climate plan, or whether they'll eliminate some programs altogether. 


In a "Dear Colleague" letter last night, Pelosi suggested her caucus is supportive of a smaller list of policy changes that would last longer.

"Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families," she wrote. 

Democrats have just a few legislative weeks to negotiate and pass a spending bill in both chambers in addition to the infrastructure bill that Biden views as critical to his campaign pledge to work across the aisle. But the party will also be juggling the threat of two impending crises: a government shutdown and debt default.