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Bush says her vote against infrastructure plan honors pledge to fight for St. Louis, social spending

Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01) speaks to a constituent on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, outside of the St. Xavier College Church on the St. Louis University campus in St. Louis, Mo. Bush was one of six Democrats who voted against federal infrastructure legislation on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, speaks to a constituent last month in St. Louis.

Congresswoman Cori Bush followed through on her promise to vote against federal infrastructure legislation unless a broader social services spending plan already has passed.

And now that the infrastructure package is heading to President Joe Biden’s desk, the St. Louis County Democrat says Congress may be in a better position to get the rest of the spending plan across the finish line.

“In order to have the full agenda, we had to hold firm,” Bush said Monday.

The infrastructure bill passed late Friday evening with six Democrats, including Bush, voting no and 13 Republicans crossing over and voting yes. It features more than a trillion dollars in spending for roads, bridges, mass transit, electric vehicle charging stations, rural broadband and lead pipe removal.

The Build Back Better proposal includes a number of long sought-after agenda items over a lengthy period of time, including money for preschool and child care. It also invests billions in climate change programs and extends the federal child tax credit boost contained in legislation known as the American Rescue Plan.

Passage of the infrastructure legislation came after marathon negotiations with close to a half-dozen Democratic members of the House who wanted the Congressional Budget Office to tally up the Build Back Better plan’s cost.

Analysis: Assessing Cori Bush's infrastructure 'no' vote

Asked why she chose to stick with her pledge to vote against the infrastructure bill without Build Back Better passing, Bush replied, “When we tell our communities that we’re going to do something, we should carry out what we said.”
She also said she and other Democrats who voted against the infrastructure bill were able to get a more robust Build Back Better proposal.

“St. Louis deserves the president’s entire agenda,” Bush said. “So that means both the bipartisan infrastructure package and the Build Back Better act. We cannot push away one part of President Biden’s agenda because it’s difficult or because a couple of people don’t want it. Our communities need it. And when I signed up to Congress and when I told the people I wanted to go and fight for St. Louis — that’s what I meant.”

Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a virtual roundtable with women’s leadership groups on the American Rescue Plan on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Harris spoke with St. Louis Public Radio on March 30 about the Biden administration's vaccination efforts.
Lawrence Jackson
Courtesy of the White House
Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a virtual roundtable with women’s leadership groups on the American Rescue Plan in February. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush said she spoke with the vice president about getting the Build Back Better plan passed.

Vice president confident

Some Democratic lawmakers, such as U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California, said he ended up voting for the infrastructure legislation because he trusted Biden to get the Build Back Better legislation passed. Asked if she had that same confidence in Biden, Bush said “this is our president’s agenda and it’s up to him to get it over the finish line.”

She spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris about whether the administration “would be able to get it done for my folks — because St. Louis needs it.”

“No longer can we be pushed to the side or we just get the crumbs and everybody else benefits,” Bush said. “And what she said was they are going to do the work to make sure they get the votes. But the votes didn’t happen in the House on Friday. So that’s why we stood strong, because it didn’t happen in the House yet. Next week is going to be crucial. We’re going to work to make sure that this happens.”

The House is expected to pass its version of Build Back Better later in the month. Whether it passes the Senate will depend on Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two Democrats who have had issues with various aspects of the legislation. Because the Senate is tied at 50 and Republicans aren’t expected to vote for the spending proposal, Democrats need their Senate caucus united for Build Back Better to pass.

“I’m going to continue to use my voice and work with my colleagues that stood with me and voted no as well,” Bush said. “Because we stuck to what we said, we were able to get more included into the House package. So hopefully the same will happen in the Senate. And we have colleagues in the Senate who are working just as hard to see this thing happen.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) speaks to the media on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, at the site of the future National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, speaks to the media last month. On Friday, Blunt broke with the majority of his party and voted for President Joe Biden's infrastructure bill.

Split in delegation on infrastructure bill

Only two members of Missouri’s congressional delegation voted for the infrastructure bill: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, and GOP Sen. Roy Blunt. Illinois’ delegation split along party lines, with the exception of Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger voting for it.

Republicans who voted against the infrastructure legislation, such as Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Mike Bost, contended that it was merely a Trojan horse to pass the more wide-ranging Build Back Better plan.

“President Biden and the far left made clear that passage of the infrastructure bill is tied to approval of their massive, multitrillion-dollar socialist spending spree,” Bost said. “As a conservative, I am unwilling to help the D.C. liberals fund their big government agenda.”

Blunt told KCUR on Monday that the infrastructure legislation will provide much-needed investment for Missouri’s roads, bridges, rail yards and inland ports. He noted that former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump wanted to pass broad infrastructure bills during their tenure but failed to deliver.

“While this bill isn’t perfect, it’s the right thing for our state and the right thing for the country,” Blunt said. “I’m glad that it’s going to head to the president’s desk.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.