Pelosi barrels ahead with chaotic House vote on Biden’s infrastructure bill, setting up showdown with progressives threatening to sink it

Nancy Pelosi Hoyer Clyburn
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accompanied by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., left and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer D-MD, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021
  • Pelosi barreled ahead with plans to pass Biden's infrastructure bill on Friday.
  • But progressives are threatening to tank it if it doesn't move alongside social spending plan.
  • "Conservative Democrats are trying to tell my community that we should just shut up and accept a half deal," Rep. Bush wrote on Twitter.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California plowed ahead late on Friday with plans to hold a vote on President Joe Biden's $550 billion infrastructure bill, setting up a showdown with progressives threatening to sink the measure if it doesn't move alongside a larger social spending bill.

Pelosi told reporters on Friday afternoon that nothing had changed from earlier in the day: She was still intended to send the infrastructure bill to Biden's desk and advance a larger package designed to expand healthcare, childcare, and mitigate the climate crisis.

"Today we hope to pass the BIF and also the rule of Build Back Better," she said, referring to a legislative terms for the infrastructure bill focused on roads and bridges and the social spending plan.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer later said it was their goal to pass the social spending bill and send it to the Senate before Thanksgiving.

It sets up a remarkable clash between Pelosi and progressives led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The California Democrat can only afford three defections, creating a thin margin for error.

House Democrats set out to pass both pieces of legislation earlier on Friday, especially after Biden personally appealed to the party to approve them "right now." But at least five House moderates opposed passing the $1.75 trillion social spending bill, arguing it lacked a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office assessing its budgetary effects, such as whether it was fully paid for.

That prompted a chaotic scramble from Pelosi and House Democratic leaders to hunt for a compromise capable of satisfying their caucus's progressive and centrist wings. Instead of passing the social legislation, they settled on a procedural vote setting the social bill's debate rules in the House for a later date.

But that route prompted strong opposition from progressives like Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, who want both bills to be passed on the same day. "Conservative Democrats are trying to tell my community that we should just shut up and accept a half deal," she wrote on Twitter.

"St. Louis sent me to Congress to do the most for all of us. We won't accept anything less than the President's full agenda," Bush said.

Democratic leaders said they were focused on securing passage of Biden's infrastructure bill and then advancing the social spending package. Even in the face of a progressive revolt threatens to deal a political setback to Biden, Democrats were unfazed and barreled ahead.

"We're not developing a plan B," Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the chamber's chief Democratic vote-counter, told Insider.

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