Liberals on Tuesday fired a shot across the bow at Democratic leaders by warning that a bipartisan infrastructure bill cannot pass the House as long as Senate centrists remain noncommittal on the larger social benefits package at the heart of President Biden‘s agenda.
The threat is the latest challenge facing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders, who have scheduled a Thursday vote on the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion public works proposal. The timeline reflects Pelosi’s promise to moderate House Democrats, who have sought to divorce the bipartisan infrastructure bill from the larger and more divisive “family” benefits package.
But in a sign that the infrastructure bill would be doomed Thursday, progressives are sticking with their long-held insistence that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) first commit to supporting the larger package before the liberals vote in favor of the more popular bipartisan measure. And they say they have the numbers to sink it…..
“I believe at the end of the day people will vote yes when it comes down to 2 million … jobs and these critical investments in infrastructure,” Gottheimer told reporters. “I just don’t believe people are going to hit the ‘no’ button, and I know the Speaker wouldn’t have called this and brought us all together if she couldn’t get the votes and she’s the best at it. So, she’ll get the votes.”
Yet Pelosi, a master vote counter, has built a reputation for never bringing bills to the floor without knowing for certain they will pass — a stipulation she has repeatedly said also applies to the infrastructure bill. And for that reason, “it was not entirely clear” if leaders intend to push through with their plan to bring it to the floor on Thursday, Schakowsky said.
“I’ve never seen her bring a bill to the floor that’s going to fail,” she said. “It will fail if she does.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said dozens of liberals are prepared to sink infrastructure in pursuit of the broader package.
“This agenda is not some fringe wish list: it is the President’s agenda,” she said in a statement….
A leading progressive, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), pointed the finger directly at Sinema, saying the Arizona Democrat is holding up the entire process by refusing to disclose what dollar amount she could live with on reconciliation.
“The House is going to be unified. We need to get one number from one senator, and we need to make it very clear that’s holding everything back,” said Khanna, who was national co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign.
Sanders, for his part, also piled on, urging House Democrats to hold the line against infrastructure “until Congress passes a strong reconciliation bill.”
Caught in the middle of the factional fight has been Pelosi, who has sought to appease moderates by scheduling votes on the infrastructure bill, while placating liberals by insisting both bills move in tandem.
On Tuesday, in a letter to Democrats, she leaned heavily into the second message, calling it “a dereliction of duty” to bolster the country’s infrastructure “without doing so in a manner that addresses the climate crisis significantly.”
“To do so, we must pass the Build Back Better Act,” she wrote in a letter to Democrats….
But all sides in the debate maintain Democrats will eventually send both bills to Biden’s desk — however messy the process of getting them there.