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A deal on climate, taxes and other issues is a big step forward, Rep. Jayapal says


After months of deadlock, Senate Democrats are pushing ahead with some of President Biden's top legislative issues. A new deal brokered by Senators Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin aims to tackle climate change, health care costs and inflation. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington has long called for this type of action, and I spoke with her to get her take on the proposed legislation.

PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Well, I'm really excited that we seem to have taken a big step forward. I think that this goes a long way to addressing a number of critical issues that will lower costs for the American people, that will take on the climate crisis in a very real way, reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, and that will ultimately make sure that we're making the wealthiest pay their fair share with some changes in our tax system. So it's a good proposal. It's not everything we wanted, but it will be a massive step forward.

MARTINEZ: On what you just said - not everything you wanted - it is a slimmer deal than the one that was originally proposed. How are you going get the House progressives to sign off on this slimmed-down version?

JAYAPAL: I think everybody understands that this is, first of all, the art of the possible. We need to get 50 votes in the Senate. I think also we feel a lot of pride in the fact that we got the Build Back Better bill drafted and passed in the House. A lot of the work that we did is contained in this bill. Once we get this through, we will be able to go out and talk to the American people about what we're doing to address their concerns. And hopefully we'll get a couple more Democrats in the Senate, and we'll be able to pass the rest of it within the next 6 to 8 months. I think we've got the country with us. We just need the numbers in the Senate.

MARTINEZ: And speaking of those numbers in the Senate, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema has not commented on the deal. Her office says that she's reviewing the text. How concerned are you that Sinema might derail this?

JAYAPAL: I don't think that will happen. Of course, I'm not speaking for her. I can't possibly speak for her. But I think Senator Schumer has done a great job of reaching this deal with Senator Manchin. Senator Sinema was involved in a lot of the early discussions, and I hope that Senator Schumer - I believe that Senator Schumer is obviously speaking with her as well, and the Senate will do its job just as we did our job back in December.

MARTINEZ: 'Cause the hurdle with Kyrsten Sinema might be the revenue, the $14 billion in revenue from taxing carried interest. She has indicated that she opposes this, and Joe Manchin has said he is standing firm on closing that carried interest loophole. I mean, if this doesn't work out where she can't be convinced, I mean, it can't go through. So what happens then?

JAYAPAL: Well, I always believe that we can find a way through. And I really think that Senator Schumer has done a really good job using the base of our Build Back Better bill in getting to a deal with Senator Manchin. And I believe he's going to do the same with Senator Sinema.

MARTINEZ: House Republicans are calling the proposal an attempt to distract from the challenges, the economic challenges that American families are facing. What do you say to those comments?

JAYAPAL: Well, this is an anti-inflation measure. I mean, this is actually going to bring down costs for the American people. We've had all number of economists, including some that were critical of the president early on, come out and say exactly why it's anti-inflationary. This is going to help bring down costs. One of the biggest issues in inflation has been gas prices. The fact that we have EV tax credits in here, domestic manufacturing that is going to help wean us off of Russian oil, help us to move people to electric vehicles, get to a clean power grid - that is one of the biggest ways that we can beat inflation.

MARTINEZ: You got the midterms coming up. If this thing passes, it could change the narrative for Democrats as they try to hold on to these majorities in the House and the Senate. So there is that part of this deal that could be at stake here.

JAYAPAL: Absolutely, which is why we are going to pass it, because we're going to show people what we can do, and then we're going to go out into our districts, and we're going to talk to people about the fact that their drug prices came down because Democrats made it happen. Their energy costs, their gas prices came down because Democrats made it happen. So I understand why Republicans want to block us. That's what the filibuster allows them to do time and time again. But we have this reconciliation tool, and thanks to Senator Schumer and Senator Manchin's negotiations, I believe we have the opportunity now to show people that we really are going to fight for them.

MARTINEZ: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, thanks a lot for your time.

JAYAPAL: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.