I want to express my gratitude to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for her ‘NO’ vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill late last night. Here’s why:
When I was 18 years old graduating from Howell High School on my way to the University of Michigan, I wanted so much to be a high school English teacher, inspired by my own teacher, Ms. Linda Garr and her love for language. She wore shamrock green suits and bright red lipstick and talked about Bronte with the illustrative glory of a Renaissance portrait. In college, I was exposed to great American writers like Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldúa, Junot Diaz, Jamaica Kincaid, James Baldwin, Joy Harjo– and they blew my mind. But by my fourth year of college– I learned about something else, global climate change and my dream of poetry-pizza Fridays were vanquished.
Like many millennials, I have been working my entire adult life to figure out how we, young and old, Black and white, immigrant and Native can solve this wicked problem of climate injustice. How can we build the safe homes for our children when the next big flood comes? How can we keep the lights on, and the heat on in polar vortex or wild storm? How can we procure food, when the supply chain and the ecological systems begin to collapse? With each campaign, with each year, it’s comes right down to one major thing– challenging corporate power.
Yesterday I doggedly followed White House correspondents on Twitter reporting the saga on the Hill. Interns ate pizza, phones were sequestered, letters were sent, and ultimately, the Progressive Caucus who had holed up in a room to discuss their options struck a deal. Last night was an historic moment, the power of the Progressive Caucus was revealed– they had the power to hold the line for millions of Americans who depend on them to protect OUR interests, not corporate power. The decision before them– pass the Senate Bipartisan Infrastructure bill (BIF) before the Build Back Better, and risk the BBB dying on the House floor; or delay/kill the BIF to ensure the passage of both. Ultimately, the Progressive Caucus decided to pass the BIF based on a promise, the word of 5 conservative Democrats, that BBB would also pass, later– only if the analysis on the finances were as they expected.
Why then would the Squad– Reps Bowman, Omar, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez– vote against the BIF after the deal was struck between some of the Progressive Caucus and the 5 conservative Democrats? Easy, because 1) the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill includes terrible things that will be harmful to our communities and 2) it was the only leverage that we had– that the American people had– to ensure the Build Back Better Act pass.
The BIF is not a climate bill. The BIF does absolutely nothing to significantly reduce greenhouse gas reductions. Actually it erodes provisions of the National Environmental Protections Act (NEPA) that would reduce or eliminate public accountability process, fast-tracking permits for major infrastructure projects like pipelines, highways, or international bridges. And arguably, the BIF will benefit major corporations– like a fossil fuel subsidy that would incentivize the life-extension of oil and gas. On the wake of COP26, where hundreds of thousands are rallying globally to end fossil fuels globally, this is what Congress did. While there are positive things in the bill, nothing that stands to benefit families compared to the BBB Act.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib did exactly what we sent her to Washington for– hold the line for Detroit, our families, our future. The promises that the conservative Democrats made to the Progressive Caucus means that there SHOULD BE a vote on the Build Back Better Act by November 15. The Build Back Better Act has the things WE need– lower prescription drugs, billions of dollars for homes & schools, paid sick leave, $555 billion on climate solutions. Yet while the BIF will go directly to the President’s deck, the BBB will still face a showdown at the Senate and likely be whittled down more. (Remember, we started this thing saying $10 trillion would be the only way to make a significant impact on our society, and take the steps to root out injustice– we are now at $1.75T.)
We deserve more, we have earned it: warm homes, good education and fair jobs, healthcare, safe communities– our kids deserve a future. Right now, corporations and the politicians they pay are threatening that. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib voted on the right side of history, she put all the chips on the table, for us, honoring our dreams and work for a more just society. Rest assured, she will make sure we do everything to get the BBB. And we must turn around and work harder for the remaining revenue and wages for us to build a sustainable future and to survive the critical decade and beyond.