Pelosi Moves to Bypass Democratic Division on Biden Agenda
(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is maneuvering to resolve a showdown with a group of moderate Democrats that threatened to derail her strategy for shepherding President Joe Biden’s economic agenda through Congress.
Pelosi is attempting to use a procedural tactic to deem the Democrats $3.5 trillion budget blueprint adopted once the House votes for a rule governing floor debate for two other measures -- a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill and voting rights legislation.
If Pelosi’s gambit succeeds it would kick off the reconciliation process in which committees write the details of the budget framework into legislation. The move avoids a direct separate vote on the budget resolution that was planned for Tuesday, while also letting Pelosi put off passage of the infrastructure legislation until at least next month.
But it’s unclear whether the 10 moderate Democrats led by New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer, who want to pass the infrastructure legislation now, will go along. After hours of meetings and negotiations, the standoff continued into early Tuesday morning.
“Obviously it’s going to be very tough, but hopefully we’ll get the votes,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.
Progressives have demanded the House take up the budget resolution, which encompasses many of their priorities, and hold off for now on passing the infrastructure legislation as leverage to make sure the Senate addresses their priorities when the spending package is written.
The division threatened to sink both measures, which form the core of Biden’s economic agenda.
The maneuver, a so-called “self-executing rule,” is typically used by House leaders when they do not have the votes and want to avoid an embarrassing defeat on the floor.
Pelosi is betting that moderates, who support both the voting rights legislation and the infrastructure package, would be reluctant to vote against the rule advancing those measures.
Structuring the budget resolution as “deemed passed” gives moderates -- some of whom are hesitant about the $3.5 trillion price tag -- some political cover after a public break with party leaders and progressives in recent weeks.
Pelosi emphasized the stakes of this week’s in open letters to fellow House Democrats over the weekend and again on Monday.
“We must not squander our Congressional Democratic Majorities and jeopardize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change to meet the needs of working families,” she wrote on Monday.
The White House on Monday reiterated its support for Pelosi and her plan to delay a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill until after the broader budget package is completed.
“The president supports the speaker’s proposed path forward,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “He also is certainly familiar with the, the leadership of Speaker Pelosi and her ability to get things done.”
While there is some GOP support for the infrastructure legislation, which easily passed the Senate on Aug. 10, House Republicans were expected to vote en masse against the budget resolution. With a 220 to 212 majority, Pelosi can afford no more than three Democratic defections if all members are present and voting. At least 10 moderates say they oppose acting on the budget resolution unless the infrastructure measure is passed and sent to Biden for his signature.
Pelosi and the White House have kept up a pressure campaign to keep the strategy on track. Brian Deese, Biden’s director of the National Economic Council, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm were among the administration officials who leaned on the moderates and others.
Biden held a virtual meeting with House Democratic leaders and key committee chairs last week to emphasize they were united on the strategy for moving forward with his agenda.
Various Democratic groups and outside organizations also are weighing in. The AFL-CIO urged the House to adopt the budget resolution now and pass the infrastructure bill later in order to assure that Congress can complete work on the much larger spending package.
On the other side Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a pivotal vote in the Senate, backed the moderate group, saying in a statement that the House should pass the infrastructure legislation.
“It would send a terrible message to the American people if this bipartisan bill is held hostage,” he said.
House and Senate committees are already at work trying to craft portions of the spending package that will fill in the details of the budget resolution on climate change, tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy, tuition-free community college, a Medicare expansion and more.
Biden and the Democrats still face challenges ahead in the Senate.
They are using a process called reconciliation that will allow them to pass the expansive economic agenda on their own. But it’s not clear that every Democrat is on board with the $3.5 trillion size of the plan, even though they all voted for the fiscal framework in early August.
Some, like Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, are balking at the price tag or the size of the tax hikes Biden has proposed to help pay for it. Manchin has also said he disagrees with Democrats who want to target fossil fuels, setting up tension for a key piece of the legislation.
Other intra-party fissures could emerge as the details become clear, and if the Senate parliamentarian effectively jettisons any portions that can’t meet strict rules to avoid a GOP filibuster.
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