The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy pelosi, postponed a planned vote on a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill Thursday night in a stiff defeat for Democrats after progressives rebelled, withholding their support until a deal could be reached to enact the totality of Joe Biden’s economic vision.
The decision crowned a hectic day of negotiations in Washington that dragged on until late at night, when the president and Democratic leaders tried to break a deadlock between a handful of moderates, who pushed for the infrastructure vote, and progressives who believe it would be insufficient without a policy package broader social security of $ 3.5 trillion. .
“Much progress has been made this week and we are closer than ever to an agreement,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki after the House announced that there would be no vote Thursday. “But we haven’t got there yet, so we’ll need some extra time to finish the job, starting first thing tomorrow morning.”
Democrats insisted the setback was temporary, but the delay underscored the Fragile state from the negotiations when a pair of Senate opponents demanded that the president slash the more expansive legislation that contains many of the party’s top political priorities. The House was scheduled to reconvene on Friday, giving Democrats at least another day to try to reach an agreement that would satisfy the disputing factions.
Both pieces are central to Biden’s economic vision. He spent weeks personally courting Republican senators to secure a bipartisan victory on the infrastructure bill, which would invest $ 1 billion in improving roads, bridges and broadband. But he has staked his presidency, and his legacy, on passing the gigantic social policy bill that would expand health care, make childcare more affordable, establish paid federal licenses, and combat the climate crisis, paid for with tax increases for wealthy Americans and corporations. .
In a vaguely worded letter to colleagues Thursday night, Pelosi called it a “day of progress.”
“Discussions continue with the House, Senate and White House to reach a bicameral framework agreement to better rebuild through a reconciliation bill,” he wrote.
“All of this momentum brings us closer to shaping the reconciliation bill in a way that will pass the House and Senate,” he said, concluding the letter with the promise, “More to follow.”
The delayed vote was a significant blow to Pelosi, a self-described master negotiator who previously insisted that Democrats they were “on track to win” the infrastructure vote. “This is the fun part,” he boasted to reporters Thursday, referring to the final chaotic stretch before securing a major legislative achievement.
Yet with just three votes to spare, and Republicans largely against it, Pelosi was unable to unravel the competing promises made to progressives and centrists in time to vote Thursday.
In an effort to placate a small group of centrists DemocratsPelosi promised to bring the infrastructure bill to the floor of the House for a vote this week. But progressives had long argued that they would only support that bill if it passed alongside the much more expansive $ 3.5 trillion package.
When it became clear Thursday that the Senate was not prepared to pass the legislation as written, progressives kept up their threat to curb the infrastructure bill, which they saw as leverage to ensure that Biden’s entire economic vision was enacted. .
The fate of Biden’s agenda remains in limbo, and with Democrats deeply at odds, it was unclear Thursday night how they planned to progress.
The terms of the negotiations were largely pushed by two Democratic opponents in the Senate, who oppose the current size of the spending package. On Thursday, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he would not support a spending package that exceeds $ 1.5 trillion, less than half the size of the proposal pushed by Biden and most of the Democratic party.
In the midst of negotiations and with just a few hours to spare, Congress passed legislation to avoid a government shutdown at midnight Thursday, and Biden then signed a measure that would fund the federal government through Dec. 3.
The measure passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, although a significant number of Republicans voted against it.