Faced with moderates, House Democratic leaders have tried to screw up Joe Biden’s multibillion-dollar budget plan on a major hurdle, working overnight to ease the cross-party confrontation that threatens to upend the domestic infrastructure agenda.
Tensions erupted and spread into early Tuesday as a group of moderates threatened to withhold their votes on the $3.5 trillion plan. They were asking the House to first approve a trillion-dollar package of roads, the power grid, broadband and other infrastructure projects passed by the Senate.
Despite hours of negotiations in the Capitol, the House of Representatives stalled and plans were thrown into flux as leaders and lawmakers gathered privately to broker an agreement. Shortly after midnight, the leaders announced that no further vote would take place until Tuesday’s session.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy PelosiHe appealed to Democrats not to miss this opportunity to fulfill the promises Biden and the party made to Americans.
“Right now, we have an opportunity to pass something very substantial to our country, so we haven’t seen anything like it,” Pelosi said, according to a person who asked not to be identified to reveal the private comments.
Pelosi told the party that it was “unfortunate” that they were discussing the process when they should be discussing policy.
“We cannot squander this majority and this Democratic White House by not passing on what we need to do,” she said.
With Republicans completely opposed to the president’s big plans, Democratic leaders have been trying to design a way out of the potentially devastating confrontation between the moderate and progressive wings of the party.
Pelosi’s leadership has sought to persuade lawmakers to hold a procedural vote to simply start the process and save the policy battle for the coming months, when they draft and discuss the details within the full $3.5 trillion budget proposal.
Powerful committee chairs urged their colleagues to move forward.
But it soon became clear that the moderates were not on the plane and once the meeting ended, other private sessions took place, including in Pelosi’s office. At one point, ready-to-eat food was delivered. A night of scheduled voting reached an unexpected dead end.
Nine moderate Democrats They signed a letter late last week raising their objections to moving forward with Biden’s infrastructure proposal without first considering the smaller public works plan already passed by the Senate. Other moderates have raised similar concerns in recent days.
Stephanie Murphy of Florida wrote, “I was baffled by my party’s misguided strategy to make the passage of the already popular and bipartisan written infrastructure bill contingent on the passage of the controversial and yet unwritten partisan reconciliation bill.” Leader of the Central Blue Dog rally, in the Orlando Sentinel.
“It’s bad policy, and yes, bad policy.”
In the narrowly divided House of Representatives, every vote counts and a few opponents can end the hopes of the Democratic majority in passing any proposal. With much of Biden’s domestic agenda at stake, it is inconceivable that Pelosi would allow an embarrassing defeat.
This is especially true because the package is filled with priorities like child care, paid family leave and expanding Medicare that are hard-to-reach goals. It also comes at a time when the president is already under criticism for his handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The $3.5 trillion budget decision is at the center of Biden’s vision of “Building Back Better” to help families and combat climate change and is a top priority for progressives, funded in large part by tax increases on rich corporations and big corporations.
But moderates insist that Congress quickly send the smaller, bipartisan infrastructure measure to Biden so he can sign it off before the political winds turn. This would prove a victory they may point to in their re-election campaigns next year.
“The House of Representatives cannot wait months or do anything to risk the infrastructure bill being passed,” New Jersey’s Josh Gotheimer, the leader of the Moderate Nine, said late last week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Biden’s support for Pelosi’s plans. Psaki called it a “healthy debate” within the party and said it was an “upper class problem” as Democrats debate details of the legislation.
The progressives were more powerful. Cory Bush, of Missouri, said the budget is “not a political pawn. It’s an opportunity to advance our agenda… We’re not here to play politics with people’s lives – we’re here to pass transformative policies.”
Republicans said the $3.5 trillion effort failed to address “the crisis that American households face” and would lead to higher inflation and deficits.
“Inflation crisis, border crisis, energy crisis, Afghanistan crisis — this budget is making it worse,” said Jason Smith of Missouri, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee.