Pelosi delays vote on infrastructure as Democrats scramble to reach a deal

“I don’t see a deal tonight,” Manchin (DW.Va.) told reporters as he left the Capitol at around 10 pm after meeting with senior congressional and White House officials on the broader bill.

Democrats with knowledge of the discussions said party leaders hoped to convince Manchin and Sinema to agree to a $ 2.1 trillion target for the broader package, to no avail. Early in the day, Manchin stated that he would not support a bill that cost more than $ 1.5 billion.

The delay marks the second time this week that Pelosi and her leadership team have been forced to suspend a planned vote on infrastructure as negotiations continue with the Senate and the White House to stop a massive number of Liberal defections on the floor. While moderate Democrats insist that momentum will not diminish, the pressure is mounting on Pelosi, Schumer and the Senate centrists to reach a deal on Friday.

Pelosi agreed to send lawmakers home shortly after 10 p.m., but party leaders will use a procedural maneuver to avoid starting a new legislative day, a nod to the moderates who had insisted on a vote Thursday.

However, missing the Thursday deadline means that authorization for various transportation programs expires. While there are few funds at risk in the short term, it means that 4,000 Department of Transportation employees could be left without permission.

Lawmakers were discussing a temporary extension to highway and transit programs that the House could quickly pass Friday and send to the Senate.

In several meetings Thursday, Pelosi struggled to finalize an agreement on the legislative framework for the broader spending deal between the two factions of the party, according to Democrats familiar with her thinking. Late Thursday night, those conversations turned into face-to-face discussions between Manchin, Sinema, Schumer, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) As they scrambled to agree on a full price for the bill. broader law.

White House officials, including National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and National Policy Council Director Susan Rice, also participated in the talks on both sides of the Capitol.

“Much progress has been made this week and we are closer than ever to an agreement,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday night. “But we are not there yet, so we will need some additional time to finish the job, starting first thing tomorrow morning.”

The framework they seek would not be a legislative text, but deeper than a schema. The goal is to include an agreement on the total cost of the bill and the main provisions of the policy in three areas: family issues such as childcare and paid leave; health care; and climate change.

Pelosi has also called for outside reinforcements to encourage members to vote for the infrastructure bill, including influential labor groups that are sending letters to members of Congress.

The Herculean effort by Pelosi and her leadership team has a lot at stake: Some Democrats are warning that a high-profile failure in infrastructure would deal a lasting blow to Biden’s agenda, further inflaming tensions across the party. Moderates like Sinema have threatened to ditch the broader spending talks if the infrastructure vote fails.

But even as Democrats remain unsure of a vote on Friday, they acknowledged that this kind of high-risk, all-consuming whip operation is precisely President Pelosi’s wheelhouse.

“We are on our way to winning the votes. I don’t even want to consider any option other than that, ”he told a room packed with journalists early Thursday. “Think positively.”

When the bill reaches the floor, several Democrats said part of the plan would be to keep voting open until Pelosi can gather enough members for approval, either from the progressive wing of the caucus or from Republicans who support the bill. infrastructure. . One member described it as a “look down” strategy.

But when those bicameral talks crept in later Thursday night, progressives made a private call in which Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Reiterated to her members that she was still demanding a Senate vote on the broader social spending plan, not just a framework.

Liberal Democrats voiced strong opposition to the vote, with member after member speaking to say they would oppose the bill, according to one person on the call.

Across the Capitol, Democratic leaders tried to convince both Manchin and Sinema to commit to a higher top number, hours later POLITICO reported Manchin had proposed a price tag of $ 1.5 trillion over the summer.

But progressives, including Sanders, have lobbied for House Democrats to delay the vote and instead stick to the pledge to pass both Biden’s priorities at once.

“[Negotiations] they can take place tomorrow, they can take place next week. We shouldn’t be obsessing over a date, “Sanders said as he left a meeting with Schumer and other top Democrats, adding that he hoped the House bill” would be defeated “if it were voted on Thursday night.

Pelosi and her leadership team worked at a breakneck pace to secure the votes of various factions in the caucus, sitting with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the centrist Blue Dog Coalition and the moderate Coalition of New Democrats.

“It’s happening today, we are moving forward,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.) told reporters after the Blue Dog meeting.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives fiercely whipped the bipartisan infrastructure bill, working to limit defections in a vote that could provide a key legislative victory for the Biden administration.

In recent weeks, Republicans have criticized the message that they see the Senate-approved plan as tied to the Democrats’ broader social spending package, which they say is reason enough to oppose it.

“I think the majority … of our members are going to vote ‘no’ because they don’t see it as an infrastructure bill,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during a news conference. Thursday.

Despite the intense lobbying campaign, some Republican members of the center have already publicly announced their support for the plan, although these Republican votes are not expected save the invoice of dozens of progressives in the House of Representatives who have pledged to oppose the bipartisan bill.

About 10-15 Republicans are expected to back the vote starting Thursday night, according to Republican sources. However, that would not be enough to make up for Liberal defections, and Jayapal reiterated that at least 60 Democrats are prepared to vote against the bill.

If Pelosi withdraws the bill, senior Democrats predicted she would wait until the last possible moment, keeping pressure on Senate centrists Manchin and Sinema, to negotiate.

But Manchin told reporters late Thursday, after hours of negotiations with party leaders and White House advisers, that he would not budge.

“I’m still at $ 1.5 [trillion] Guys I’ve been to 1.5 and I’m going to make sure people understand that there are so many good things, ”Manchin said. “We can help a lot of people, children in the front, elderly people in the back, a lot of good things.”

Olivia Beavers, Burgess Everett, and Tanya Snyder contributed to this report.

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