WASHINGTON – California President Nancy Pelosi signaled to Democrats Monday that she would go ahead with a vote this week on a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, working to save President Biden’s agenda in Congress, including when the party was still divided over a larger social safety net. measure.
Progressive lawmakers have long warned that they would not vote for infrastructure legislation, that the Senate approved last month, until a much more expansive $ 3.5 trillion fiscal and domestic policy package also passed the chamber.
But in private remarks to her caucus Monday night, Pelosi effectively decoupled the two bills, saying Democrats needed more time to resolve their differences over the multi-million dollar social policy plan. The move amounted to a bet that liberals who had refused to allow the infrastructure bill to move on its own would support it in a planned vote Thursday.
Nor did he make clear the fate of the most expensive. social safety net package, which Democrats are pushing by using the fast-track reconciliation process to protect him from Republican obstructionism. But with slim margins of control in both houses, Democratic leaders must keep all their senators united in favor and can afford to lose just three votes in the House.
Pelosi said her change in strategy came only after it became clear that Democrats would have to downsize the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package. Biden has been negotiating privately with conservative Democrats to establish a final number. She described her new approach after speaking with President and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Majority Leader, as the three worked to rally their members behind the details of the package.
Ms Pelosi said Democrats had been in time to push through the reconciliation package until 10 days ago, when she heard the overall cost had to be lowered, according to a person familiar with her comments, who described them on condition of anonymity. .
But it has been clear for weeks that conservative Democrats would not accept the size of the bill.
Lawmakers in both houses have said they hope to quickly resolve the remaining differences between the moderate and liberal factions of their party, although many of the specific demands of the holdouts remain unclear. Ms. Pelosi reiterated that she will not accept a reconciliation bill that the Senate cannot pass.
He told Democrats that the reconciliation measure was still important, but that he wanted to allow time to continue negotiations and avoid delaying a vote on bipartisan infrastructure legislation. That bill, now scheduled for vote on Thursday, includes $ 550 billion in new funding over 10 years and maintains a number of key transportation programs that will end at the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
But even as Pelosi tried to rally the party before the vote, it was unclear whether enough Liberal Democrats would back down from her insistence that the reconciliation package move first.
Moderate Democrats remained confident that enough Republicans would support the infrastructure bill to allow it to clear the House and send the legislation to Biden’s desk.
However, some progressives rejected the speaker’s plan to decouple the two bills, saying they would still not feel comfortable backing the infrastructure measure until they heard assurances from Senate moderates that they would adopt key components of reconciliation legislation. .
“In fact, I would like you to make your demands clear so that we can commit to that,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, of two key Senate moderates, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Cinema from Arizona.
“The bills are linked,” added Ms. Omar. “And they have to be linked so that anything goes through the Chamber.”