Pramila Jayapal Claims Progressives Pushed Biden's Agenda 'Back on the Table'

Representative Pramila Jayapal said Sunday that progressive Democrats helped put President Joe Biden's agenda "back on the table" after refusing to support a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill without including measures for social policy and climate action.

Jayapal, a Washington Democrat who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN that these lawmakers are the reason the bill is being re-evaluated to include broader measures such as health care, free community college, paid family leave and other priorities Biden originally laid out in his "Build Back Better" plan.

"What I think is happening right now is progressives have helped push back on to the table—back on to the agenda—President Biden's agenda," Jayapal said Sunday on State of the Union.

"There was a Build Back Better agenda that the president laid out to Congress five months ago. It had infrastructure, roads and bridges, but it also had, 85 percent of it, was around these other important programs. Childcare, paid family leave for 12 weeks for everybody, making sure we're taking on the climate crisis, expanding health care, and of course, taking on the challenge of giving a path to citizenship for immigrants," she continued.

"All of a sudden—we made clear three and a half months ago—that the two had to move together because we don't want to pit roads and bridges against child care. We know that the president doesn't want to do that either."

Pramila Jayapal Infrastructure Bill
Representative Pramila Jayapal praised progressives for putting Biden's Build Back Better plan "back on the table." Above, Jayapal speaks to reporters before a House Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on October 1, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Jayapal's comments come after the nearly 100-member progressive caucus earlier this week refused to support the infrastructure bill without trying it to a $3.5 trillion social spending package. The move forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay a planned vote on the bipartisan measure and ultimately drew support from Biden.

"Things only happen here when there is urgency," Jayapal said on Friday. "I'm just so proud of our caucus, because they are standing up for people who feel like they have not been heard in this country for a very long time."

On Friday, Pelosi said that negotiations would continue until Democrats can find a way to include both the Build Back Better spending plan and the infrastructure bill. Progressives are now hoping to pass the spending bill using the Senate budget reconciliation process, which could allow it to become law without any Republican support.

"While great progress has been made in the negotiations to develop a House, Senate and White House agreement on the Build Back Better Act, more time is needed to complete the task," Pelosi said Friday. "Clearly, the bipartisan infrastructure bill will pass once we have agreement on the reconciliation bill."

After a closed-door meeting with lawmakers, Biden expressed optimism over the new negotiations and vowed that the infrastructure bill would soon be passed.

"I'm telling you, we're going to get this done," Biden told reporters Friday. "It doesn't matter when. It doesn't matter whether it's in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We're going to get it done."

Newsweek contacted the White House for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.