Nine Democrats Threaten to Blow Up Pelosi’s Budget Plan — and Biden's Agenda

Nine Democrats Threaten to Blow Up Pelosi’s Budget Plan — and Biden's Agenda

REUTERS/Gabrielle Crockett

A group of centrist House Democrats is threatening to derail much of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, nine moderates said they will withhold support for a $3.5 trillion Democratic budget blueprint unless she first allows a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package passed by the Senate this week.

“With the livelihoods of hardworking American families at stake, we simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package,” the moderates wrote. “It’s time to get shovels in the ground and people to work. We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law.”

The letter is signed by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA), Filemon Vela (TX), Jared Golden (ME), Henry Cuellar (TX), Vincente Gonzalez (TX), Ed Case (HI), Jim Costa (CA) and Kurt Schrader (OR). But while Gottheimer is co-chair of the House Problems Solvers Caucus, the threat could cause some real problems for Democrats and President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.

Why it matters: Democrats have employed a two-track strategy, aiming to pass both the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill backed by moderates and a larger package favored by progressives that focuses on social safety net programs and combating climate change. Pelosi has insisted the House will only take up the bipartisan bill after the Senate passes the broader package. The strategy is meant to ensure that the moderate and progressive wings of the party hold together, with each side backing the bill supported by the other, but Democratic leaders are walking a tightrope as various factions press their priorities.

Democrats can only afford to lose three votes when the House looks to pass a budget resolution later this month, a critical step toward enacting the larger package. That means that the nine Democrats threatening to withhold their votes could scuttle a huge chunk of Biden’s agenda. Some moderates have previously called on Pelosi to allow a stand-alone vote on the bipartisan bill, but this is the first time the centrist lawmakers have gone so far as to publicly say they’re willing to block the budget resolution.

At the same time, progressives have issued their own threat, with dozens of progressives indicating they will withhold their votes on the infrastructure bill until the Senate adopts a reconciliation package — meaning that even if Pelosi were to hold a quick vote on the bipartisan bill, it could very well fail. “The important thing to me is to get both bills passed and to the president,” Rep. Tom Malinowski, a moderate Democrat from New Jersey, told The Washington Post. “I fear that forcing a vote now would undermine, not advance, that goal.”

What’s next: “Democrats have too much at stake to let internal turmoil sink their domestic agenda,” Alan Fram of the Associated Press says, “but it was initially unclear how leaders would resolve the problem. Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who faces a similar moderates vs. progressives balancing act in his chamber, may have to present a united front about how to untie their knot and pressure rank-and-file lawmakers into line.”

The White House said Friday that it’s confident that House Democrats, like their Senate counterparts, will come together to advance both parts of Biden’s economic agenda.