House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ruled against putting a $1 trillion infrastructure bill on the floor Thursday night, according to a leadership aide, after progressives rebelled, potentially delaying consideration until Democrats strike an agreement on a separate, much larger social safety net and climate legislation.
Pelosi’s decision came after hours of intense negotiations, including a call with President Biden and a crush of meetings and calls with members of the House Democratic caucus.
The progressives’ stance today: Liberal Democrats were confident this week that they had the numbers to block the bill, which would spend hundreds of billions of dollars upgrading roads, bridges, transit, rail, broadband, airports, ports and waterways.
They hope their hardball tactics would push moderates to support their top priority: a $3.5 trillion bill known as the Build Back Better Act. That legislation would expand the child tax credit and Medicare’s ability to cover vision, hearing and dental care, fund community college and universal pre-kindergarten initiatives, combat climate change, and fund elder care and paid leave programs. The $3.5 trillion bill would be paid for, at least in part, by tax increases primarily on corporations and the wealthy.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told CNN that the infrastructure deal should be “defeated” and railed against Pelosi’s late-night deal-making effort.
“It is an absurd way to do business, to be negotiating a multi-trillion-dollar bill a few minutes before a major vote with virtually nobody knowing what’s going on,” Sanders said. “That’s unacceptable. And I think what has got to happen is that tonight, the bipartisan infrastructure bill must be defeated. And we can sit down and work out a way to pass both pieces of legislation.”
Progressives said they would withhold their support on the bipartisan infrastructure package until moderates strike a deal with them on the Build Back Better Act. Washington state Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman, told CNN she was not worried that her liberal colleagues would break ranks.
The moderates’ stance today: Pelosi’s effort to pass the infrastructure bill today was complicated by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who said Thursday he would support a much smaller, $1.5 trillion bill expanding the social safety net, and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. The two moderate Senate Democrats met for about 45 minutes on Thursday evening, as they tried to find a way forward on both the infrastructure and Build Back Better plans.
With a split Senate and a slim hold on the House, Democrats are leveraging their power to make sure their colleagues support their bills, which comprise Biden’s domestic agenda.
What comes next: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer confirmed in a statement that the House will “remain in recess subject to the call of the Chair during this same legislative day of September 30, and will reconvene no earlier than 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.”
Members are “further advised” that the House is expected to “complete consideration” of the infrastructure bill tomorrow.
A White House official said they also expect talks to continue tomorrow on the framework for the larger social spending plan.