Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday stood by her earlier demand that the House will not vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal until the Senate also passes a sweeping, multitrillion-dollar spending package using budget reconciliation.
"We are here to get the job done. We cannot respond to some of the legislation until the Senate acts," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters during her weekly press conference. "We will not take up the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation measure."
Lawmakers are in the process of trying to pass two proposals that make up the bulk of President Biden's "Build Back Better" economic agenda: A $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which focuses on mostly traditional projects like roads and bridges, and a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which includes funding for universal preschool, free community college, Medicare expansion and combating climate change.
Although Biden initially suggested that he would veto the pared-down spending bill if Democrats in Congress didn't simultaneously pass a larger reconciliation bill, the president – facing an uproar from Republicans – almost immediately recanted that statement and clarified that he would sign the agreement if passed on its own.
Still, Democrats have indicated their own support for making the passage of the smaller bill contingent on the success of a larger bill that would be passed using the procedural tool known as budget reconciliation, allowing the party to circumvent a 60-vote Republican filibuster.
By tethering the bipartisan bill to the reconciliation package, Pelosi is trying to ensure that progressive members of her caucus rally around both measures. Because Democrats have an unusually narrow advantage in the House (Pelosi has just three votes to spare), it's possible that left-leaning lawmakers could torpedo the bipartisan deal – which Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has previously threatened to do.
"There aren't the votes to pass just the bipartisan plan without the reconciliation plan," Jayapal said during an interview with CNN. "We've been clear about that."
Democratic leaders are facing pressure from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to abandon the strategy.
"The president has appropriately delinked a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, unrelated tax-and-spend plans that Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis," McConnell, R-Ky., said in June. "Now I am calling on President Biden to engage Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and make sure they follow his lead."
With their incredibly slim majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats face a delicate balancing act in pursuing their so-called "two-track" agenda – approving both a bipartisan deal and a reconciliation package – or they risk losing the support of either moderate or progressive members.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked moving forward on the bipartisan bill as lawmakers continue to draw up legislative text. Although it posed a temporary setback, members of both parties insist they're unfazed and are committed to moving forward with the infrastructure agreement as early as next week.