Congresswoman Jayapal on the latest regarding President Biden's spending plan
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
House lawmakers are ending the week without passing the $1.75 trillion economic and climate framework that President Biden touted yesterday. It's a framework that he said could determine the fate of his presidency and his party. It's also a framework that got an optimistic endorsement from the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, despite the loss of paid family leave in the plan.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRAMILA JAYAPAL: People - you know, their hearts are breaking. Our hearts are breaking - all the women here, all the families. Paid leave is not in the framework that the president laid out. And it's breaking our hearts, and we hope maybe something changes.
CHANG: That is Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, who joins us now.
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
JAYAPAL: Thank you so much for having me.
CHANG: So you said that you and your caucus fully endorse this framework, but that you still needed to go through - what is it? - more than 1,600 pages of text in this framework. I'm just curious - how close are you to getting through all of those pages? And do you anticipate that any of your reading will change your mind?
JAYAPAL: Well, we really hope that everything that is in the framework is clearly articulated through the detail. But obviously sometimes, you know, there are issues with details that we have to fix. And so that's what we're working on right now. We're going through the whole text. I believe that by the end of the day tomorrow or middle of the day tomorrow we should have a very good sense that this is actually something that - not just in principle, but a bill that we could actually endorse and vote for. And my hope is that we will be able to pass it very shortly - in the next several days - and be able to send it on to the Senate, along with the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
CHANG: Well, I want to go back to what is not in this bill. Because I know you said the lack of paid family leave is heartbreaking, as we just heard in that piece of tape. But you know, it was also a major priority for your caucus. So how do you square this loss with what you told us just a couple of weeks ago on this very show - that it was of utmost importance to keep your priorities in this bill?
JAYAPAL: Yes, it's a very important question. And for us, we had five key priorities. The first one was the care economy. And within the care economy, we cheated a little bit. We had four things. We had universal child care, so no family pays more than 7% of their income in child care, universal pre-K for all our little kids - 3- and 4-year-olds across the country - and then also home- and community-based care so that elders could get care at home instead of waiting on a waiting list to go into an institution, and then paid family leave. That was all part of the care economy.
JAYAPAL: What I will say is, the first three made it. And unfortunately, Senator Manchin does not believe that we should have paid leave in a reconciliation bill. He - I'm not sure he believes in the concept of paid leave. I couldn't disagree with him more. But the reality is that we have 50 votes that we need to get in the Senate. Now, in addition, we also got...
CHANG: So just to be clear enough, did make it in this package. Even though it wasn't all the priorities of the care economy that you wished could have been in this bill, something is ultimately better than nothing is your view?
JAYAPAL: Well, that's right. But also, we had four other priorities, and every single one of those four priorities, in some shape - you know, some not as strong, but in some shape, did make it into the bill. So really, if you think about it, out of something like, you know, nine priorities, we got seven or eight of them.
CHANG: That said...
JAYAPAL: So yes, we feel like it's very strong.
CHANG: That said, you know, I don't have to point out to you that the U.S. is the only wealthy nation without a national paid leave policy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand - they want to keep pushing to add paid family leave back into this package. Do you support that?
JAYAPAL: Oh, 100%.
CHANG: Do you support that effort? Or do you think that that could risk - you don't think that that could risk delaying passage even more?
JAYAPAL: Well, what I said to them is, I don't think that we are going to get it because Senator Manchin has refused. Now, if something changes in the next 24 hours, and they are able to work magic and get it in, we have said we would love to have anything additive. But the reality is, for our caucus, we have to see these two bills pass. And I believe that we are now at the end of negotiation. If there are senators who feel like they can work magic and get their 50 colleagues on board, that's wonderful.
CHANG: Well, let's talk about the math in the Senate. Because as you mentioned, a lot of whether this framework will ever become law is probably going to hinge on two moderate Democrats in the Senate - Joe Manchin, as you've mentioned, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Now, progressives have said that you want an ironclad agreement from them on approving this framework. I know that you spoke to Sinema yesterday. Have you gotten that commitment from her at least? And what have you heard from Manchin?
JAYAPAL: Well, I don't want to speak for her. But what I can say is, I do believe that we are at a place where she has been very supportive. She's issued some supportive statements. And I'll just say that I feel very comfortable out of our meeting. I have not circled back with Senator Manchin in a couple of days, and I do intend to do that. But most importantly, the president came and spoke to us and said that he is confident that he has 50 votes in the Senate. And I think at this point, we do need to trust that the president has those 50 votes and that he will be able to get it done.
That said, we wanted to see the language - the text of the bill. We wanted everybody to see the text of the bill. And we want to be able to pass both bills together through the House so that we are absolutely sure that we know what agreement we're making. And so that is what we have gotten. The text was released yesterday. We're going through it. And hopefully we will be able to stick to what we said and pass both bills through the House very shortly.
CHANG: I do want to talk about the larger meaning of all this back-and-forth between Democrats. Because you know, as we mentioned, President Biden told House Democrats the fate of his presidency and the ability of your party to maintain its majorities in Congress - that those things rest on what happens in the next few days, in the next week. Are you worried that this messy process with no bill passed after so much negotiation has Americans thinking Democrats can't deliver on their promises?
JAYAPAL: Well, I know people are worried about that. But let me just say that I think as soon as we pass these bills, which, again, is going to happen very shortly, what people are going to see is that their lives will be transformed. And I'll also tell you that there are so many people across this country who are so grateful to the Progressive Caucus for standing up and saying, thank you for fighting for me, you know? Thank you for keeping the entirety of the president's agenda on the table. Because until the Progressive Caucus held the line, we would have passed just a smaller infrastructure bill...
CHANG: Right. But...
JAYAPAL: ...That was only about 15%.
CHANG: ....Do you feel...
JAYAPAL: And now we're passing the entire thing.
CHANG: Do you feel that all these negotiations have laid bare all the different factions inside your party and has muddled the message for what the overall Democratic Party stands for?
JAYAPAL: Not really. I mean, I just think it's hard to negotiate in public. I think the public doesn't and shouldn't really have to watch the sausage making. But that is kind of what happens every time there's a negotiation. And really, I would just remind people that there's only been three weeks of serious negotiation on this...
CHANG: All right.
JAYAPAL: ...Build Back Better Act, unlike the infrastructure bill, which had something like five months of negotiation.
CHANG: And we have...
JAYAPAL: We have moved very, very quickly.
CHANG: ...To leave it there. Thank you so much. That is Democrat Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, Chair of the House Progressive Caucus.
JAYAPAL: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.