Democrats will need to walk a political tightrope to pass the infrastructure package they want, and the first step in what could be a long and difficult process involves agreeing on a budget framework.
Writing a budget blueprint, which will unlock the reconciliation process and open the door to passing a potentially massive spending bill, will be particularly challenging given Democrats’ slim majority in the House, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) feeling pressure from both progressives and centrists over the size of the bill.
Progressives are already pushing to include more spending on their priorities, which they say are health care, housing, climate change, child care and immigration. “It’s essential, what we have talked about with the Speaker and within the caucus — the budget resolution has to be crafted in a way that it takes into consideration all of our five priorities,” Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told Politico.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has cited a $6 trillion figure for the spending plan, though Democratic leaders say they think it will come in below that amount. But progressives in the House say that $6 trillion is closer to a floor than a ceiling.
“I think the $6 trillion number that Sen. Sanders spoke of is a fine one,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). “I believe with this moment that we have on climate, if you ask me, I think this should be a $10 trillion package or at least part of a larger $10 trillion climate strategy.”
Centrists are expressing concerns about spending too much, with some saying that they could not support a spending package over $4 trillion. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a key centrist in the Senate, says that he won’t go even that high. “If they think in reconciliation I’m going to throw caution to the wind and go to $5 trillion or $6 trillion when we can only afford $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or maybe $2 trillion and what we can pay for, then I can’t be there,” he said this past weekend.
House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) told Politico that Democrats must achieve near-total unity in order to move ahead. “In this case, unity is our only chance.”