Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal blamed the White House for the death of Democrats’ social spending and tax bill after West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin essentially killed the legislation by saying Sunday that he would not vote for it.

“I want to start this conversation with a clear-eyed look at how we got to where we are,” Jayapal, a Washington House Democrat, said in a press call on Monday. “It started almost eight months ago when the White House decided to split the president's Build Back Better agenda into two bills, leaving the majority of the agenda, even beginning negotiations, until the early fall.”

She then took aim at the Senate for passing a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill “without any commitment” on the Build Back Better Act, the other half of President Joe Biden's economic agenda.

That left progressives to put pressure on leadership, and for months, Jayapal led the left flank of her party in holding up passage of the infrastructure bill in the House unless there was a commitment to pass the Build Back Better bill. Eventually, Biden assured Jayapal that he had a commitment from Manchin, and the progressive caucus made way for the bill to pass.


Manchin “went back on this word,” Jayapal said. “That lack of integrity is stunning in a town where people say the only thing that you have is your word.”

Jayapal added that Manchin called her on Monday morning. “I told him how I felt,” she said.

Six far-left Democratic members of the so-called “Squad” who voted against the infrastructure bill, though, say that Manchin’s backing out of the bill was predictable. They argued that House Democrats and progressives gave up leverage by letting the infrastructure bill pass in a late-night vote after hours of negotiation.

Asked if she regretted letting the infrastructure bill pass, Jayapal said she did not.

“This is the question that I've gone over in my head a million times. And I can tell you, I don't,” Jayapal said. “Had we not passed the infrastructure bill, I actually think that that would have been the day that the senator said the Build Back Better Act is done. I think he would have walked away.”

Biden and the White House, not Jayapal or progressive members, led negotiations with Manchin on the Build Back Better legislation.

“Either the president did not have a commitment, or the senator made a commitment and went back. And I believe the president when he says he had a commitment,” Jayapal said.

Now that the legislation appears to be dead, Jayapal and progressives are pushing for Biden to address some of the priorities in the Build Back Better bill by executive action.

“It is now incumbent on President Biden to keep his promise to us and to the American people. By using the ultimate tool in his toolbox, the tool of executive actions, in every arena immediately,” Jayapal said.


But she did not spell out what kind of executive actions progressives want Biden to take, saying that the Progressive Caucus will have to take some time to formalize its demands.

“We've mentioned climate, and, you know, specifically around fossil fuels. We've mentioned student loans,” Jayapal said. “We need to run that through our process.”

As for what provisions of the Build Back Better Act might be possible through a legislative path in a smaller bill, a path that other Democratic lawmakers have suggested, Jayapal expressed exasperation.

“I have no idea, because I don't know what that guy's willing to do,” Jayapal said.