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Progressives are ready to vote on Biden agenda bills, Rep. Jayapal says

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right, with us now is Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Good morning to you.

PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Good morning, Noel.

KING: OK, so you heard Kelsey and me speculating there. What do you think? Will the House vote today on a new version of the budget package?

JAYAPAL: Well, I certainly hope so. Progressives have been ready to vote on both bills and get both bills through. And so as you heard, there's - you know, there's a couple of senators that may still want something else. But I think at this point, we are ready to vote both bills through and really deliver some incredible things for people across the country.

KING: President Biden would almost certainly be happy to hear you say that. You heard that bit of tape where he said, we got to get things done for people. We got to deliver results. Do you think what happened on Tuesday in these elections, where Democrats took some real hits - including some surprising hits - do you think that's related to the inability to move the president's agenda forward?

JAYAPAL: Well, Noel, I think that - you know, I don't think anybody can blame a 12-point swing in a state on one bill not passing. But I do think - as you saw, the Voting Rights Act went down in the Senate again. This was a revised version of the bill that was actually written by Senator Manchin after we passed the voting rights bill - you know, the For the People Act - almost - I think it was almost six or seven months ago in the House. And we do have a problem with bills, like a $15 minimum wage bill that we passed in the House way back in January or February that still has not passed the Senate. And I do think people look at that and they see the - you know, the stoppage of work in the Senate, and they're - they probably are frustrated by that.

But I think there's just some bigger issues here around helping people to recover from one of the worst possible economic downturns and pandemics and the frustration with people still not being able to go out without dealing with COVID. I think those are all the things that are coming together, and I think the best way to address it is to pass these bills and make real change in people's lives.

KING: Do you think - as we look at the results of the election this week, is there any part of you that thinks maybe the Democrats didn't do enough to sell the public on the substance of these bills, and so much attention went to focusing on the internal disagreements in the Democratic Party? And so it just turned out bad because folks were focused on the wrong thing, which you can't blame them for, right?

JAYAPAL: Right. No, I totally - you know, I don't know if that was what did it for this election, but I do think that that's one of the problems. I never talk about the process, as much as I can, even though that's what everybody wants us to talk about. I talk about delivering universal child care, universal pre-K, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. And I think that negotiation is just kind of a messy thing. And unfortunately, that is what, you know, it's focused on, is the minutia of what is happening and who's against what and, you know, how we're all, you know, not agreeing. But that is actually how you write legislation. It's just that, unfortunately, it's on display. So let's get these things done. And then we'll be able to talk about, you know, actually what's happening for people, so that at the end of the day, Noel, they can wake up and feel differently about their lives. They can say, wow, I can go back to work.

You know, record number of women were pushed out of the economy. They can go back to work with child care. People will have pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. Stunning ability to really affect the outcomes of kids down the road, as well as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, which, by the way, is a deal that came together just in the last couple of days. And while it's not everything we want, it is a start on getting prescription drug prices down, allowing people to afford insulin. And then, of course, addressing climate change, something that the president has done such a magnificent job of leading on. And this bill will have over $500 billion to finally bring down carbon emissions and lead the world in addressing climate change.

KING: Let's stay on substance for a second. Congressional Republicans - you heard Kelsey say it - they see Tuesday's election as a vindication of their position that the Democratic Caucus is pursuing these spending policies that are pushing up inflation. And that means higher prices on everything, right? And that is frustrating to voters, and so voters responded. What do you think about that?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think it is a real issue that people are struggling, and I think we have to acknowledge that that is the case. And - but there are different ways to address that, right? So if gas prices are going up or cost of goods are going up because of the supply chain and because of the challenges of COVID, then what Build Back Better will do is it will actually lower costs for middle-class families across the country by taking care of child care costs, making sure no family is paying more than 7% for child care, bringing in affordable housing for families across the country. Those are the things that lower costs and affect pocketbooks. How do we get people to be able to balance their budget so that they can actually pay for food and housing and their kids? That's what people want us to do, and that's what we'll deliver.

KING: Representative Jayapal, thank you for your time.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Noel.

KING: Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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