This week has resulted in a major win for combating climate change and U.S. infrastructure as the House passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. While this result, being a major step for President Biden’s agenda, fostered support from both Democrats and Republicans alike, it also went through the bipartisan chopping block of compromise, which led to many important climate change and social measures to be cut from the original bill.
This is not to say that the bill is not a major step in the fight to combat climate change, the bill itself contributes $47 billion for efforts to withstand climate change impacts the largest amount of money spent by the U.S. in that area. This sum will mainly be used to lessen the effects of climate change on communities that are already experiencing weather disasters and to help communities to prepare for things like extreme floods, fires and storms that are becoming more frequent. While this is an important step, it is still not enough.
The infrastructure bill passed 228-206 with 13 Republicans voting in favor, which hopefully will lead to a continued crossing of party lines in order of progress and betterment of their constituents’ lives. However, it also had six democrats that voted against it which has created insecurity around whether or not the passing of this bill will also lead to legislative approval of the Build Back Better plan. The Build Back Better plan calls for universal preschool, four weeks of paid and family medical leave and more than $550 billion to fight climate change, paid for with a minimum tax on all corporations and increased taxes on wealthy Americans.
For many progressives, their votes on the compromised and more “bipartisan” infrastructure bill were predicated on moderate support for the Build Back Better plan, something that was supposed to be voted on simultaneously with the infrastructure bill. However, the vote on the Build Back Better plan was stalled, which has caused many to suspect that compromise will not allow for such a progressive bill.
This stalling process is cause for concern, as while any step in the direction of reform is good, many are worried that the infrastructure bill is not enough. However, instead of bringing this issue to the forefront, most of the coverage around the vote is centered around bipartisanship. On one side, we have Democrats commending Republicans for “crossing partisan lines” and on the other, conservative Republicans criticizing their party members for even thinking about voting on a “Democrat” bill.
Due to this level of bipartisanship within the House, many people are calling the infrastructure bill a huge win for Democrats; however, even such an idea takes away from the real conversation that needs to be started. We must stop looking at legislation as just a part of our two-party system, strictly confined inside the walls of the House or the Senate. These bills are not just papers to be signed, or partisan battles, they have actual real-life effects and consequences for their constituents.
The fact that who voted for what is dominating the conversation around the bill hinders the need for continued momentum within the much needed fight surrounding our changing climate. We must figure out a way to change the idea that climate change and climate change reform is a Democratic policy platform and should only be connected to one party’s agenda. The Senate and the House are plagued with petty party politics that do not allow for them to come together and work together.
This also should not just stop with the two-party system. It is also an issue within the parties themselves; conservatives, moderates and liberals alike are continuing to choose their party over the real issues that they are elected to solve, they are wasting time, time that we don’t have. While compromise may not be enough, we must look at it as a way forward that can hopefully destroy the petty drama that we see in high school, I mean congress.
Legislation should be more than just a win for one party or the other because if we continue to live in a world of black and white or Democratic and Republican we will have not time left to make the lasting change we need.