Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned Wednesday night that the corporate lobbyists who have been working tirelessly to weaken or destroy the Democratic Party's hopes for a sweeping Build Back Better agenda would love nothing more than the American people to stop fighting so that lawmakers like Sens. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and other corporate members of the party can succeed in watering down the legislation to the barest minimum.
During the online event dubbed "What's in the Damn Bill" hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and joined by other progressive lawmakers and outside organizers to bolster the fight against Big Pharma, the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street interests, and the powerful right-wing lobby groups like the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce, Ocasio-Cortez said people must remain vigilant, especially as the negotiations appear to being reaching a conclusion. The Build Back Better bill envisioned by nearly 98 percent of the Democratic caucus would make lasting investments in elder care, higher education, family leave, renewable energy, ending childhood poverty, and creating a system of universal pre-K and childcare.
The corporate lobbyists, said the New York Democrat, "want you to give up before the deal is done, because it's way easier for them to try to get away with the things that they're lobbying for and against if people at home aren't watching."
Ocasio-Cortez noted the "intense presence of corporate lobbyists throughout the process of reconciliation." This is why, she said, "that it's just as important for people at home to be engaged in this process."
The online event took place as President Joe Biden on Wednesday lowered the Democratic Party's ambition on overall spending from the $3.5 trillion that progressives had agreed to and been fighting for down closer to $2 trillion. According to most reporting on the ongoing negotiations this will be achieved by scrapping some programs and reducing the duration or scope of others.
As Alex Lawson, executive director of the advocacy group Social Security Works, said during the call, the pharmaceutical industry is just one prime example of the outlandish influence that corporate lobbyists are playing in this legislative process:
"Their game," Lawson said in the context of Big Pharma which is campaign ferociously to stop Medicare from being allowed to lower drug prices for U.S. seniors, "is preventing the government from using its leverage to negotiate a better price" on those life-saving medications.
"You'll hear a lot of people say, 'Oh, it's very complicated—how are we going to do this or that?' But it's not complicated," explained Lawson. "Every other country does this. We're the only country that allows pharma to charge whatever they want. We pay the highest prices in the world. And to add to that, we the taxpayers, pay for the vast amount of research and development on all of the drugs!"
With so much corporate money sloshing around Capitol Hill and used to strong-arm politicians of both parties, Lawson said the "only thing to combat that is people."
"We've got people," he said. "They've got money."
Watch the full, approximately 70-minute event above.
Republished from Common Dreams (Jon Queally, staff writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).