In her first remarks following the November election, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California signaled to Democrats that she would push ahead with a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure this week, aiming to preserve President Biden’s agenda in Congress even as the party was divided over a broader social safety net provision.
Progressive lawmakers have long vowed that they would not support the infrastructure bill until a larger, $3.5 trillion domestic policy tax package has also passed the Senate.
But, in a private meeting with her caucus on Monday night, Ms. Pelosi effectively decoupled the two bills, stating that Democratic lawmakers needed more time to resolve their differences over the multitrillion-dollar social policy plan. The decision was a gamble that liberals who had resisted allowing the infrastructure bill to move forward on its own would accept it in a planned vote on Thursday.
It is uncertain whether the more costly social safety net package, which Democrats are pushing through using the fast-track reconciliation process to avoid a Republican filibuster, will survive or not. But in both chambers, Democratic leaders must keep their senators unified in support if they want to maintain control of Congress with just two votes’ worth of room for error.
Ms. Pelosi said that she changed her strategy after it became direct that Democrats would have to shrink the size of the reconciliation bundle from $3.5 trillion. Biden has been negotiating privately with conservative-leaning Democrats to settle on a final number for this package. After meeting with the president and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, as they tried to bring their members behind the specifics of the deal, she described her new strategy.
According to a source familiar with her comments, Pelosi said that after the reconciliation package was initially set for passage on April 25, Democrats had been on track to move it through until ten days ago, when she learned that the overall price had to come down. However, it has been apparent for weeks that conservative-leaning Democrats would not accept the cost of the legislation.
Lawmakers in both chambers have Says they intend to rapidly resolve the remaining disagreements between their party’s moderate and liberal wings, although many of the holdouts’ specific demands remain unclear. Ms. Pelosi reaffirmed that she would not bring a reconciliation measure to the House unless it could pass in the Senate.
She argued that the reconciliation bill was still important, but she wanted to give time for further talks and to avoid delaying a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. That legislation, which will be voted on Thursday and is now expected to last until 2021, would provide $550 billion in new funding over ten years and keep a number of essential transportation programs from exp
Even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to galvanize the Democratic caucus ahead of the vote, it was uncertain whether enough liberal Democrats would back down from their demand that the reconciliation package move first.
Moderate Democrats were hopeful that enough Republicans would back the infrastructure bill to allow it to pass the House, and they dispatched it to Joe Biden’s desk.
Other progressives, on the other hand, rejected the speaker’s notion of decoupling the two bills, arguing that they would not be happy to support the infrastructure bill until they were certain that Senate moderates would accept important elements of the reconciliation legislation. “I would want them to be clear and straightforward so that we can engage with that,” Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said about two key Senate moderates, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
“They’re linked,” Ms. Omar stated. “And in order for anything to pass the House, they must be connected.”
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