Pelosi Pushes Toward Infrastructure Vote as Biden Seeks Deal
(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing Democrats toward a vote this week on a bipartisan infrastructure bill as President Joe Biden works to broker a deal with Senate moderates on a bigger package of taxes and spending.
Pelosi is banking on progressive Democrats settling for an agreement on the topline figure for the package of social programs and climate measures that encompasses the bulk of Biden’s agenda, rather than a vote on legislation this week. Her calculation is that would allow them to vote to pass the infrastructure bill they have threatened to sink.
The larger bill, with a price tag of as much as $3.5 trillion, is dividing Democrats, as moderates demand the measure’s size and scope be narrowed and progressives insist it include their priorities. But some progressives indicated they would settle for a firm agreement on the broad outlines of a spending plan.
Party leaders were examining ways to shrink the price tag and Biden was set to meet separately Tuesday with Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Both have objected to the size of the plan, among other issues, and their votes are crucial to getting it through the evenly divided Senate in the face of unified Republican opposition.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, said he hopes Biden “can work a miracle” and get a deal on a topline number this week.
“We have to bring both of them to a point where we have a consensus number,” Durbin said of Manchin and Sinema. “And I think the president’s naturally going to address that.”
Durbin added that it’s clear there needs to be “closure” on the economic package.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats are hoping this week to reach agreement on a topline number and a framework for the reconciliation package. The full bill, he acknowledged, “will take some time.”
The wrangling over Biden’s agenda comes as Congress faces two urgent deadlines with significant consequences for the U.S. economy: passing a stopgap spending measure to keep the government funded after the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year and raising the federal debt ceiling before the U.S. runs out of borrowing authority on about Oct. 18.
Representative David Cicilline said after a meeting of House Democrats the Congressional Progressive Caucus is “united” on linking the infrastructure bill with the larger package, which is using a process known as reconciliation to bypass a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
But he said they don’t necessarily need to be voted on at the same time as long as there is a “commitment to get it done with everything everyone’s assurances in place.”
However, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters as she went into the meeting that she wouldn’t agree with separating the two measures. She said she expects “a few dozen” progressives would still vote against the infrastructure bill if the reconciliation package isn’t ready.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a member of House Democratic leadership, wouldn’t speculate on whether the infrastructure legislation could pass on Thursday if there is no deal on the topline spending figure for the rest of Biden’s agenda.
“We remain hopeful that the many different conversations that have been taking place, particularly with the senator from West Virginia and the senator from Arizona, will yield some greater clarity, sooner rather than later, into what is possible in the Senate, so we’ll know what’s possible in the House,” he said.
Pelosi told her members in a closed-door meeting on Monday that leaders prefer to reach an agreement with the Senate and White House before the House votes on the larger package, according to a lawmaker who attended the session.
The speaker, the lawmaker said, doesn’t want the legislation to go through a series of changes as it ping-pongs between the House and Senate.
Because of that, Pelosi said a vote on infrastructure can no longer wait until reconciliation is ready to be voted on by the Senate. Instead, the House will vote on that measure on Thursday. This was a shift from the tighter linkage of the two votes she had insisted on until then.
Representative Dan Kildee of Michigan said Monday that Democrats were discussing a number of ways to lower the price tag, including shortening the timeline of the new or expanded social programs in the reconciliation package.
Democrats are also discussing implementing income limits, or means tests, to some of the tax credits, including the electric vehicle tax break, in the bill to lower the overall cost of the legislation.
House Democrats have made progress on some of the yet-to-be resolved tax issues in the bill. Lawmakers pushing for an expansion of the state and local tax credit, or SALT, deduction say they are confident that provision will make it into the bill. Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat advocating for SALT, said the legislation will likely include a two-year suspension of the $10,000 limit on the tax break, but that a final decision has not yet been made.
Democratic leaders are also moving forward with a proposal to require banks to report the inflows and outflows of bank accounts worth at least $10,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, narrowing a proposal from Biden. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden say they are adapting the White House proposal to tailor it to only target wealthy taxpayers who could be hiding income from the federal government.
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