‘It’s about making a promise and sticking with it’: Ilhan Omar on why she voted against infrastructure bill

‘This isn’t really about whether there is trust or not. It’s about making a promise on what you will do and sticking with it and that’s what I’ve done,’ she tells The Independent

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Saturday 06 November 2021 01:39 EDT

While an overwhelming majority of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Chairwoman Rep Pramila Jayapal, voted to pass an infrastructure bill that passed the Senate in August, many members of the Squad voted against it.

Among those who voted “no” were Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Progressives in the House had repeatedly said they preferred not to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, sometimes known as the BIF, which passed the Senate earlier this year if it was not also coupled with a larger social spending bill, known as the Build Back Better bill. The latter bill includes provisions like child care, universal pre-school, extending an expanded child tax credit, provisions to combat climate change and increased funding for home services for elderly people and people with disabilities.

Democrats in the Senate hope to pass the Build Back Better bill in an evenly-divided Senate through a process called budget reconciliation, which would allow them to pass it with a simple majority and sidestep a Republican filibuster, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

House Democrats had hoped to pass both bills as early as Friday. But a handful of House Democrats wanted the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to score the bill, which led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deciding to have a vote on the bipartisan bill, then vote to advance a rule to consider the Build Back Better bill.

That led to a standoff between progressives, who wanted the bills to be passed simultaneously, and moderates, with the Congressional Progressive Caucus huddling in the Longworth House Office Building for hours on end.

Eventually, the moderates pledged to vote on the bill later this month and ultimately 13 Republicans joined Democrats. But the pledge was not enough for the Squad.

“I have said that me personally, I want to see both of the bills come and pass simultaneously,” Ms Omar, who serves as the whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Independent. “That wasn't the case. I voted no on the BIF as I promised."

When asked about whether she would trust moderate Democrats to vote on the Build Back Better bill later this month, Ms Omar demurred.

“This isn't really about whether there is trust or not,” she said. “It's about making a promise on what you will do and sticking with it and that's what I've done.”

Ms Pressley said in a statement that she refused to make a false choice between different types of workers.

“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,” she said. “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.”

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