Pelosi Pressures Moderates in Face-Off Over Budget Plan Vote
(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants said they will press ahead with votes next week to advance the Senate’s $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, calling the bluff of a group of moderate Democrats who are demanding the House first pass a separate bipartisan infrastructure package.
Hours later, a leader of that moderate group, Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, signaled he may be open to striking a deal.
“I’m confident we can sit down together and work this out,” he said in a statement, while adding that voters don’t want to wait for months for the infrastructure spending to start having an impact.
During a private call with House Democrats earlier Tuesday, Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer laid out a schedule for votes on Monday and Tuesday to move ahead on the budget resolution and the $550 billion infrastructure bill -- which are central to President Joe Biden’s economic agenda -- as well as a voting rights measure, according to officials on the call.
In a letter to House Democrats Tuesday night, Pelosi said that Biden has endorsed her plan to pass the budget resolution framework next week and that it would “maximize the leverage of our caucus in the budget process.”
“While the bipartisan infrastructure bill offers important progress, it is not reflective of the totality of Democrats’ vision” and House Democrats need to assure that they can “deliver” the larger budget package in the Fall, Pelosi wrote.
Action on the budget resolution also means the full House won’t need to return to Washington again until the scheduled end of the recess, which is Sept. 20, she said.
But the budget resolution vote sets up the prospect of a face-off with Gottheimer and eight other moderates who threatened in a letter to Pelosi last week that they won’t consider voting for the budget framework until the infrastructure package is passed by the House and signed by Biden. Pelosi can afford to lose no more than three Democratic votes and still pass the budget resolution on an expected party-line vote.
Pelosi is siding with dozens of party progressives who are instead demanding she hold up a final vote on that infrastructure package until this fall, when the Senate completes the far larger budget bill to ensure it addresses their priorities on social programs and climate change. That means a final vote on the infrastructure legislation take place until late September at the earliest.
During the call, Pelosi and other senior Democrats urged the party to stay unified in order to see its broader agenda made into law. She and Hoyer pointed to a letter to House Democrats from Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio, who said that House Democrats must stay together to influence the expansive budget package, according to four officials on the call.
“But giving the House a voice requires all members of the House Democratic Caucus to work together and take the first step -- enacting a budget resolution so that we can put forth a House reconciliation bill that elevates House priorities,” DeFazio wrote.
As an added pressure point, Hoyer said Monday night’s vote on the rules governing floor debate would allow the House to adopt the Senate’s budget resolution as well as voting rights legislation. Voting against that rule could block advancement of the voting measure, which has wide support in the caucus.
The White House backed Pelosi’s approach to bringing the budget resolution, the infrastructure bill and the voting rights legislation to the House floor.
“All three are critical elements of the President’s agenda, and we hope that every Democratic member supports this effort to advance these important legislative actions,” Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said in an emailed statement.
Gottheimer said he is hearing from trade and labor groups and other constituents about the pressing need for the infrastructure bill’s immediate passage.
“From what I’m hearing from folks in my district, including labor, it’s clear that we cannot afford to wait months for this once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment,” Gottheimer said.
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