© Bloomberg. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks during an event with climate activists to highlight the Build Back Better Act, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Democrats remained deeply divided late Monday as they huddled to close an intra-party split that threatens this week to blow up the White House’s economic agenda.
(Bloomberg) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she’s pushing ahead with a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill despite threats from progressive Democrats to sink the legislation without assurances the Senate will pass a more expansive tax and spending package as well.
“So far, so good for today,” Pelosi said at a news conference after a meeting of her leadership team. “We’re on a path to win the vote. I don’t want to even consider any other options than that.” By contrast, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, when asked by reporters if he is confident the bill will pass, said “nope.”
Pelosi held a series of meetings with moderate and progressive lawmakers in an attempt to find some bridge between the two wings of the party and prevent President Joe Biden’s agenda from getting stalled. But top progressives said they were unmoved.
“We are at the same place we’ve always been,” Representative Pramila Jayapal said after leaving Pelosi’s office. “We will not be able to vote for the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill has passed.”
Jayapal called Pelosi “a master vote counter,” but said there won’t be enough support for the bill to pass.
Pelosi said she is confident that the bigger spending package, which encompasses much of Biden’s economic plan, would ultimately be enacted, despite hitches in negotiations with the Senate over the size and scope of the measure.
“There’s going to be a lot of conversations between now and when we get the vote,” Texas Representative Henry Cuellar, one of the moderates demanding a vote this week, said after meeting with Pelosi.
Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark said earlier Thursday that Democratic leaders are continuing to work to lock down the necessary support ahead of the planned vote on the $550 billion infrastructure package. She said even if that bill isn’t passed on Thursday, the impact would be limited.
“Whether that vote happens today, and I hope it does, this is not over,” Clark said in an interview on Bloomberg TV’s “Surveillance” program. “If we haven’t reached that point in our negotiations, our commitment is to getting this entire agenda done, and that will happen.”
Progressives have pledged to vote against the infrastructure bill unless there’s agreement on the larger tax and social spending package. But negotiations on that have been dragging on, with Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona raising objections to the proposed $3.5 trillion price tag.
Their votes are necessary for Democrats to pass the package in the evenly divided Senate, through a budget process known as reconciliation that would bypass a filibuster.
While there is some Republican support for the infrastructure legislation, GOP leaders have been linking that bill with opposition to the bigger tax and spending plan Democrats are pushing through Congress.
“I think the majority, the overwhelming number of our members will vote no,” House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent and a leading progressive, called the House moderates’ demands for a vote this week “totally arbitrary.”
The infrastructure bill “will pass as soon as we have confirmation of a strong reconciliation bill that protects the needs of working families and addresses the crisis of climate change” he said. “We are talking about the most consequential piece of legislation for working people in modern history of this country.”
(Updates with Pelosi quote, remarks from lawmakers beginning in second paragraph)
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.