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159 advocacy groups band together to push for Biden's Build Back Better plan

The groups are mounting a campaign to pressure Congress to pass President Joe Biden’s landmark social spending plan.

By Josh Axelrod - February 03, 2022
Build Back Better protest

While Congress has shifted its attention to more pressing matters, like Russia’s growing aggression toward Ukraine and a vacancy on the Supreme Court, advocacy groups haven’t forgotten about Build Back Better.

A coalition of 159 labor unions and advocacy groups led by the organization Invest In America is calling on Congress to advance the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

The diverse array of advocacy groups includes Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, the Economic Policy Institute, Faith in Public Life, Indivisible, Iron Workers, Latino Victory, the League of Conservation Voters, MomsRising, MoveOn, Our Revolution, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Sierra Club, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

The coalition includes some of the country’s largest labor unions representing millions of American workers, including builders, nurses, educators, and service sector employees.

That includes the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which has more than 12.5 million members through its 57 affiliate unions; the National Education Association (3 million members); the Service Employees International Union (2 million members); the American Federation of Teachers (1.7 million members); and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (1.6 million members).

“While extraordinary progress has been made with the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we all agree that more can, and should, be done,” the groups say in a joint statement released Thursday. “Families continue to face challenges that necessitate bold action. The policies President Biden has outlined in the Build Back Better Act will make historic investments to cut costs for families and create millions of good-paying jobs, fully paid for by making sure the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”

If Congress passed the Build Back Better framework — originally presented as a $3.5 trillion plan and then slimmed down throughout months of compromise — it would be investing $1.75 trillion in establishing universal pre-K, combatting climate change, bolstering affordable health care, expanding Medicaid coverage, tackling child poverty, and augmenting child and elder care programs.

But currently the bill is trapped in an intraparty stalemate. In December, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) temporarily quashed the spending package’s hopes of passing after he said he would vote against it unless it was significantly overhauled.

Manchin went even further this week when he told reporters that the act is “dead.”

“What Build Back Better bill? There is no, I mean, I don’t know what you all are talking about,” Manchin told CNN on Tuesday.

“No, no, no, it’s dead,” the West Virginia Democrat added. “If they’re talking about the whole big package, that’s gone.”

Still, Democrats hope to resuscitate the bill in the coming weeks, though that prospect has been further complicated by Mexico Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s stroke and hospitalization last week.

Democrats are already navigating a razor-thin majority with no senators to spare on a vote that Republicans universally oppose.

The advocacy groups are mounting a campaign over the next month to pressure Congress to pass the president’s ambitious social spending plan.

Between now and March 1, when Biden will give his State of the Union address, climate activists led by the League of Conservation Voters will host more than 300 events, including rallies, art installations, and town hall events with members of Congress.

MomsRising, a grassroots organization focused on women’s issues, will direct 200 constituent calls to Manchin’s office a day in addition to opening a “rage hotline,” where participants can scream messages into the phone that the group will relay to lawmakers.

SEIU, for its part, will spend almost $1 million on digital and television ads in Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and in Arizona, the home of Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, another key holdout.

Despite the freeze on Biden’s landmark social spending plan, 65% of voters still support Build Back Better, according to a January survey from Data for Progress, a progressive think tank. That includes 64% of independent voters who want to see the bill passed.

“The principles outlined by President Biden remain popular with the American people and would be a historic investment in American families,” the coalition’s statement says. “We urge our elected leaders to come together with the President, reach consensus on a final package, and pass the Build Back Better Act into law.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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