Pelosi Pushes for Infrastructure Vote as Biden Plan Delayed
(Bloomberg) -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would push ahead with a House vote Friday on a $550 billion public works bill and delay a vote on a larger tax and spending bill despite continuing friction among Democrats that threatens to blow up her plans
Pelosi said the bipartisan infrastructure bill was too important to put off any longer. She said the House would take a procedural vote to set up consideration of the larger economic package, a central piece of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, before the Thanksgiving holiday, Nov. 25.
“This is two giant steps forward today,” Pelosi said.
Biden was calling members of leadership as well as progressive and moderate House Democrats in an effort to resolve the standoff and push them toward a vote on the infrastructure plan now, according to a White House official. He also canceled plans to travel Friday night to his home in Delaware.
The intensive effort to round up votes showed the the deep conflict between the two party factions and the level of mistrust on both sides.
A group of six moderates is withholding support for the tax and spending legislation until a full Congressional Budget Office cost analysis is completed, which could take a week or more. They want the infrastructure bill passed first, which would send it to Biden’s desk.
But progressives were adamant about voting on both pieces of legislation at the same time so they can be sure their priorities are addressed in the spending package. They have held up a House vote on the public works bill as leverage.
Shortly before Pelosi spoke at a press conference, Representative Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, indicated the group wasn’t budging.
“If our six colleagues still want to wait for a CBO score, we would agree to give them that time -- after which point we can vote on both bills together,” she said in a statement.
About 30 progressives met privately late Friday afternoon to discuss their strategy. Jayapal didn’t respond to questions as she left the meeting, but other progressives indicated that their position was unchanged.
Representative Jared Huffman, a progressive from California, said the group was looking for a way to create an “iron clad” guarantee without voting on both bills.
“What we’re exploring today is whether there’s something short of a full vote on both bills that can give that functional assurance, and we’re not quite there yet,” Huffman said. “It might be a late night.”
Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders refused to say whether they are sure of having enough Democratic votes to pass the infrastructure bill on Friday. Representative James Clyburn, the party’s chief vote counter, would only say, “We’ll see.”
The Democrats narrow majority means Pelosi can’t afford to lose more than three votes, unless some Republicans vote for the infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday that he anticipated few House Republican would support for the infrastructure bill because Democrats are linking the vote to the larger social safety net spending bill.
“I’d think it’d be very difficult for a Republican to campaign on that because it’s viewed as one bill,” McCarthy said.
With the Senate having approved the public-works bill in August, success in the House floor vote would send it to Biden -- giving him a badly needed legislative victory amid his current slump in approval ratings. It provides $550 billion of new funding for roads, bridges, public transit, clean water and other projects.
Pelosi and other members of House Democratic leadership have been grappling with sharp disagreements within the party that has held up action.
Pelosi spent most of Friday trying to convince a half dozen fiscally conservative House Democrats to vote for the bill without a formal estimate of its cost. The members were not taking the White House at its word that the bill would be fully paid for.
The House delay could hold up the larger economic package until later in the year, just as Congress is confronting what is set to be a partisan battle to fund the government by Dec. 3 and raise the federal debt ceiling.
The Senate is likely to change the House-passed bill as Democrats in that chamber deal with their own moderates-progressives divide. That would send the legislation back to the House for another vote.
Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, a moderate Democrat, said he has “seen enough” to have confidence the bill ultimately will be fully paid for. He said any deficit concerns can be tweaked in the Senate and when the bill comes back from the House.
“Like many of us here I am growing restless,” Phillips said. “Last week it was because of my progressive colleagues and frankly now I’m concerned about some of my colleagues on the other side of spectrum.”
Representative Raul Grijalva, a progressive from Arizona, called the stance of the moderate holdouts “kind of bush league.”
New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell, said the situation was “bizarre.”
“Everything is going wonderful as you can see,” he said.
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