Nearly 50 youth activists, ranging in age from 13 to 30 years old, protested outside of the White House Friday morning demanding Democrats pass an infrastructure plan without bipartisan support.
Members of the youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement held signs that said “Our Future Is Not Negotiable” and “Biden No Compromise No Excuse.”
Progressive groups such as Sunrise are calling on President Joe Biden to pay more attention to their demands and less to those of congressional Republicans. Sunrise wants the president to stop negotiating with the GOP.
“Biden moved towards us, promising us a future, and in exchange, we worked tirelessly to get him elected. We held up our side of the deal, but now that Biden is in power, that promise of co-governance with progressives and young people has disappeared. He’s spent more of his time meeting with a Republican Party who to this day contests he is the democratically elected president,” said Varshini Prakash, Sunrise’s leader, in a news release Friday.
Prakash was part of the “Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force” on climate last summer, a coalition formed by the campaigns to signal Mr. Biden’s willingness to adopt a more progressive vision.
Mr. Biden met with West Virginia Senator Shelly Moore Capito, who is leading the negotiations for Republicans, twice this week and is set to do so again Monday. His $2 trillion proposal, the “American Jobs Plan,” would rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and adopt a green economy through the creation of green union jobs, while Capito and her colleagues have countered with a $257 billion proposal for new spending on public works alone.
Other activists who spoke to CBS News said Mr. Biden is negotiating in the wrong direction and are worried he will concede too much to Republicans, squandering a chance to pass a bold bill that would rebuild infrastructure and combat the climate crisis while transitioning the country to a green economy.
“This is not only about investing in jobs, we have a natural climate emergency going on around us, and it really frightens me frankly, that, that Biden would start from a place that is so much weaker than what we need,” said Janet Redman, director of Greenpeace USA’s climate campaign.
“Honestly, what I feel is a bit of frustration, some disappointment and some fear that we are going to see the kind of business as usual; a repeat of the administration that we had eight years ago,” she said, adding that Mr. Biden could not claim to be a “climate champion” if he were to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The progressive Green New Deal Network, comprising 15 organizations including the Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club and Greenpeace, is trying to push Mr. Biden to the left.
As members of Congress returned home this week, groups in the network staged protests outside of members’ local offices. On Thursday, numerous events in Illinois, Maine, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and more aimed at sending a message to specific lawmakers.
“[Capito has] been in negotiations with the White House and we think that now is not the time to be negotiating away our future,” said Ryan Frankenberry, state director of the West Virginia Working Families Party, part of the network.
On Thursday, the party organized events outside of all four of Capito’s West Virginia offices.
“We just want to make sure that we are elevating the issues and making public awareness that [she] is leading in these negotiations and she can deliver for West Virginia, but the question is will she,” Frankenberry said.
The groups have all endorsed the THRIVE Act, a proposed recovery plan that would invest at least $1 trillion per year on infrastructure, green jobs and racial equity over the next 10 years.
The THRIVE Act represents the true “vision” of rebuilding the country through a green and equitable agenda, said Melinda Pierce, legislative director at Sierra Club. But passing the American Jobs Plan as the White House presented it, she argues, would be greatly progressive.
For now, Pierce said Mr. Biden’s negotiating tactics have demonstrated his desire to publicly present a good faith attempt at bipartisanship but that his “patience is not infinite.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that a clear direction for the infrastructure plan needs to be in place by Monday, June 7. Pierce said the new week ought to mark an end to Mr. Biden entertaining the GOP negotiations.
“The bipartisan effort needs to end Monday,” she said. “If I’m wrong I will jump in the ocean.”