Progressives Balk at Pelosi Plan to Speed Vote on Infrastructure
(Bloomberg) -- House progressives on Thursday dug in on their threat to oppose a $550 billion infrastructure bill if Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to a vote before they go through legislative text of a separate, $1.75 trillion tax and spending package and are assured it could pass the Senate.
By mid-afternoon, the House had posted a 1,684-page bill containing much of President Joe Biden’s social-spending plan, a hopeful sign that that measure could move quickly. But key Senate holdouts Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had not yet endorsed the legislation.
“If you think I’m going to talk to you about something, on anything -- we’re working in good faith, how is that?” Manchin told reporters Thursday afternoon.
Pelosi, during a press conference Thursday afternoon, did not respond to repeated questions about the timing of the vote on the infrastructure bill.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal earlier said members of her group “enthusiastically endorsed” the contours of Biden’s economic agenda unveiled Thursday. But progressives, she said, want to vote on both bills when the larger measure is ready.
“We are also committed to staying through the weekend” to finalize the legislation encompassing Biden’s tax and social-spending agenda, she said.
Pelosi’s leadership team had alerted members that a vote on the infrastructure bill may occur sometime Thursday, following Biden’s briefing to Democrats on a framework for the social-spending plan, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan isn’t yet public.
But Jayapal, following a meeting between her caucus and Pelosi, made clear there are “too many ‘no’ votes” for the bipartisan infrastructure package, also known as BIF, to pass on Thursday. Among them are Representatives Cori Bush of Missouri, Juan Vargas of California, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
“I’m a ‘no’ on BIF -- put down as a ‘hell no’ on BIF,” Tlaib said.
The Senate approved the infrastructure legislation in August, and House passage would give Biden a major win as he heads later Thursday to Europe to attend summit meetings with global leaders.
Pelosi and Biden can expect only a few, “if any” House Republicans to help them pass what was sent over from the Senate as a bipartisan measure, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday.
Omar, a member of progressives’ leadership team, said she didn’t want to take people’s word for supporting the tax and social-spending package.
“I do hope that these senators are actually going to be on board with the framework, so that we can actually put pen to paper and get this legislation done,” Omar added later, as public endorsements from Manchin and Sinema remained pending.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, urged the House to postpone a vote on the infrastructure bill until “they see very clear language and know that there are 50 senators on board whatever the agreement may be” on the larger tax and spending bill.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachussets Democrat, tweeted her support for House progressives, saying the infrastructure bill and Biden’s agenda should “move together.”
Procedurally, Pelosi needs only to call the infrastructure bill up for a vote on the floor. Members were advised in a notice that potential floor action on the bill could occur Thursday, though that doesn’t guarantee it will.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio is among those leading the effort to convince members to vote for the bill. He sent a “Dear Colleague” letter Thursday morning to Democrats that Pelosi’s office helped to circulate. The infrastructure legislation includes funding for the highway trust fund. That’s now subject to a temporary extension that expires Oct. 31.
In it, DeFazio said that another short-term extension of highway funding -- such as the current one that expires at the end of the month -- is “highly disruptive to transportation project planning and delivery” by departments, and local governments.
“It will take all Democrats working together to reach the finish line on both of these bills,” he wrote. “That’s why I’m asking all members of the House Democratic Caucus to join together to support the infrastructure bill when it is called up in the House.”
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