'I kept my word:' Rashida Tlaib tells why she broke ranks to vote against infrastructure bill

November 08, 2021, 12:10 PM

Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Southwest Detroit is among six Democrats voting with 200 Republicans against a $1.2-trillion bill to fix roads, bridges and other infrastructure nationwide. The legislation, supported by 13 Republicans in the House, also will expand broadband internet service in underserved areas, including her city.

Rashida Tlaib: "We are missing our once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in the American people." (Photo: C-Span/2019)

Tlaib and five party colleagues -- including Squad-mates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts -- voted "nay" because they wanted infrastructure spending and a separate economic package, known as the Build Back Better Act, to move together.

"I kept my word," the Detroiter posts Sunday on social media. 

She explains the vote in this six-paragraph statement at her congressional site:

For months, there has been a simple agreement in place to advance President Biden’s agenda – pass both the Build Back Better (BBB) Act and the bipartisan infrastructure framework (BIF) at the same time. This has been essential because Build Back Better is the real vehicle for the President’s transformative investments in people and the planet, and passing BIF without Build Back Better would increase the disproportionate pollution burden my communities already bear.

Today [Friday] that agreement was broken, as a vote was forced on BIF without a real vote on Build Back Better at the same time. Voting on the rule to open debate on Build Back Better is not enough. Passing BIF gives up our leverage to get Build Back Better through the House and Senate, and I fear that we are missing our once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in the American people.

I voted against BIF because I represent some of the most polluted zip codes in Michigan and the country. While BIF includes some positive provisions, and in particular some funding for lead pipe replacement that I hope will come straight to Michigan, it would also make communities like those I represent less safe, less healthy, and less protected from corporate polluters.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of the key laws that shields our neighborhoods from the poison of corporate polluters, requiring environmental impact studies on projects like oil pipelines and bridges. These environmental impact studies analyze projects’ effects on public health and the environment we live in and help ensure that you and your family are not being put in harms way by a development in your backyard. My residents need these protections. BIF guts NEPA, excluding countless new projects from environmental reviews that are meant to keep us safe, unacceptably weakening one of the most important tools we have for protecting our families. Written by Senators Manchin and Sinema, and the corporate lobbyists and fossil fuel companies that back them, BIF also includes tens of billions in fossil fuel subsidies that will lead to more pollution in our communities – from projects that will increasingly be shielded from environmental review.

Wayne County has already been out of Clean Air Act compliance for sulfur dioxide since 2013 and for ozone since 2018. 13% of adults and nearly 12% of Wayne County children has asthma, levels far higher than the State average, and in Detroit the asthma hospitalization rate is more than 3.5 times the State average. Residents live next to corporate polluters like Stellantis, which has been issued air permit violation after violation. Ours is the last community that can afford crippling the environmental regulations that are supposed to protect us from corporate polluters. Without a vote for the passage Build Back Better today, and with Senators Manchin and Sinema refusing to commit to passing the Build Back Better agenda and making real transformative investments in my residents, I cannot in good conscience vote in favor of more pollution in my district. I will not sacrifice the health and safety of my residents for two senators who have shown nothing but contempt for the people I represent.

Every time I cast a vote, it’s centered on my residents and not corporate interests. Build Back Better’s investments in lowering drug prices and expanding Medicare, universal pre-k and lowering childcare costs, paid family and medical leave, immigration protections, safe affordable housing, and generating clean, renewable green energy to combat the climate crisis creates a pathway for a better quality of life for my residents. Everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive, everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water. I await the opportunity to vote yes on President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which will make transformational investments in people and the planet and make life better for so many of our neighbors.

Leave a Comment:

Photo Of The Day