Staring at her party’s progressives on Friday, Nancy Pelosi vowed to press ahead with a vote on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill while delaying consideration of a separate and larger social spending package popular with the left wing of the Democratic Party.
The move broke a long-standing promise to move the two bills through Congress side by side, a request that progressives extracted from programs in the larger bill, including subsidies for childcare and sweeping investment in efforts to combat climate change.
In a letter to her colleagues on Friday afternoon, Democratic House Speaker Pelosi said it was “important” to move forward with the infrastructure bill and invest in a social safety net dubbed “Building Back Better.”
However, as Pelosi said House lawmakers will vote on the infrastructure package — which the Senate passed earlier this year with the support of 10 Republican senators — on Friday, she added that the Building Back Better bill would be subject to an additional procedural vote. .
In doing so, I effectively separated the two pillars of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, and postponed the final vote on Build Better until later this year.
The strategy paved the way for members of Biden’s party to torpedo his major infrastructure bill, if a critical mass of progressives voted against the measure in defiance of the House speaker.
Several hours later, the vote was postponed as the progressives remained locked in a meeting on how to proceed. At one point, Biden—who remained in the White House after a planned trip to his vacation home in Rehoboth, Delaware—was postponed—calling the meeting in a last-ditch effort to win the support of the Progressives.
Earlier on Friday, Biden made a public appeal to members of the House of Representatives to pass both legislation, saying in a speech at the White House: “I am asking every member of the House of Representatives, a member of the House of Representatives, to vote yes on these two bills at once.”
“Send the infrastructure bill to my desk. Send the Rebuilding Better bill to the Senate,” Biden said.
But these pleas fell on deaf ears as Pelosi scrambled for a compromise that would satisfy moderates who criticized the scale and scope of the larger plan, and progressives who refused to sign the infrastructure bill without guarantees on the larger budget package. . The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives made it clear that it opposes both bills.
It was the latest point in the months-long bipartisan feud, which has exposed divisions in the president’s party and stymied his legislative agenda at a time when his national approval ratings have fallen sharply.
Many Democrats blamed inaction on Capitol Hill for their poor performance in this week’s governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as a number of local contests in other states. Democrats are seeking support ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when control of both houses of Congress will be ready to be seized.
At the start of the day, Democratic leaders planned to pass the two bills before the weekend. But it soon became clear that the goal would not be achieved after a group of at least six House moderates, including Josh Gotheimer of New Jersey and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, said they would not vote for Build Back Better until they saw the official cost estimates from the House. . Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency.
Critics have questioned the White House’s insistence that these measures will be “paid for in full” through a crackdown on tax evasion, taxing minimum corporate profits, and imposing additional new taxes on people earning more than $10 million a year.
Pelosi then floated a new plan to delay the final vote on Build Better while continuing to move forward with the infrastructure bill. But this proposal was quickly rejected by progressives in the House of Representatives led by Pramila Jayapal of Washington State.
Pelosi can’t lose more than a handful of votes given that Democrats have a very slim eight-vote advantage over Republicans in the House. But the spokeswoman appeared defiant in the face of Jayapal’s challenge on Friday afternoon, telling the assembled television cameras that she hoped the infrastructure bill would pass “today.”
It added that it aims to move forward with a final version of Build Back Better before the Thanksgiving holiday later this month.
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