A group of moderate Democrats is clashing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over when to vote on a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill – potentially imperiling a key part of President Biden's legislative agenda.
The House returned from its August recess this week and is held a crucial procedural vote Monday night on rules for debate on three measures: the budget resolution that will serve as the blueprint for Democrats' tax and spending plan, the infrastructure bill and a separate voting-rights measure.
Pelosi late Monday failed to come up with an agreement with the centrists who want to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill unattached to the massive, $3.5 trillion in the budget reconciliation, The Hill reported. The report said that Democratic leaders announced after midnight that the issue will be revisited at about noon on Tuesday.
A coalition of nine centrist Democrats has been at an impasse with Pelosi and progressive lawmakers for weeks over a strategy to tether passage of the infrastructure bill – which the Senate already passed with bipartisan support – with the roughly $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that they plan along a party-line vote.
"We are firmly opposed to holding the president’s infrastructure legislation hostage to reconciliation, risking its passage and the bipartisan support behind it," the nine lawmakers wrote in a Monday op-ed published by The Washington Post. "We can walk and chew gum, just as the Senate did. We can pass the infrastructure measure now, and then quickly consider reconciliation and the policies from climate to health care to universal pre-K that we believe are critical."
The lawmakers – including Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, Ed Case of Hawaii, Jim Costa of California, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Josh Gottheimier of New Jersey, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Filemon Vela of Texas – have threatened to oppose the budget framework unless Pelosi first brings the infrastructure bill to the House floor for swift passage.
Because Democrats have an abnormally narrow advantage in the House, it's possible the lawmakers could torpedo both the bipartisan deal and the larger reconciliation package that would establish health, education and environment programs.
The centrist Democrats secured support from two key moderates in the Senate on Monday: Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Synema reiterated her opposition to a $3.5 trillion spending package, while Manchin issued a statement endorsing the group's push to vote first on the smaller infrastructure bill.
"It would send a terrible message to the American people if this bipartisan bill is held hostage," Manchin said.
Still, Biden has signaled that he supports Pelosi's strategy – and the California Democrat has shown no sign of acquiescing to the moderate group. By tethering the votes together, Pelosi is trying to ensure that Democrats across the ideological spectrum support both pieces of legislation, ensuring their eventual passage.
"Any delay to passing the budget resolution threatens the timetable for delivering the historic progress and the transformative vision that Democrats share," Pelosi warned in a letter to House Democrats Saturday night.