House Democrats returned to the Capitol today looking to mend intraparty rifts and resolve a standoff that threatens to derail their economic agenda and scuttle President Biden’s proposed expansion of the social safety net. At the moment, it’s not clear they’ll succeed.
As moderates and progressives continue to jockey for leverage, Pelosi (D-CA) on Monday called for a 5:30 p.m. meeting of her caucus ahead of a planned procedural vote to begin debate on the budget resolution later in the evening. She reportedly also has held talks with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), the leader of a group of nine moderates who have insisted that they won’t vote for the budget framework unless the House first holds a stand-alone vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal passed by the Senate earlier this month.
Pelosi reportedly offered the moderates a deal that would fold the rules for debate and passage of the budget resolution into one vote. That wouldn’t address moderates’ demands that the infrastructure bill be passed first, but it would allow Democrats who are uneasy about the $3.5 trillion spending package a way to avoid a direct vote on it. Pelosi reportedly also suggested setting a firm deadline for passing the infrastructure bill of October 1, when current surface transportation programs expire.
Members of the moderate holdout group reportedly were less than enthusiastic about the offer.
The whip count on the budget bill was further complicated when Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) announced late Monday that she would not vote to start the reconciliation process unless the infrastructure bill is finished first. Democrats can’t afford to lose more than three of their members given that Republicans are expected to uniformly oppose the budget framework.
Both sides warn against delay: Pelosi’s latest proposal comes after both sides ramped up the pressure by signaling that they would stick by their strategies. Pelosi has insisted that she will only bring the infrastructure bill up for consideration in the House after the Senate has passed a budget reconciliation bill. Dozens of progressives have said they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill until they see that the reconciliation package addresses their priorities and isn’t stripped down or killed by moderates.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter on Monday, Pelosi urged her members to pass both the budget plan and the infrastructure bill. “We must not squander our Congressional Democratic Majorities and jeopardize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change to meet the needs of working families,” she wrote, adding, “The success of each bill contributes to the success of the other.”
But in an op-ed published at The Washington Post on Sunday night, the moderates insisted that the infrastructure bill should not take a back seat, and that delay could threaten its passage. “Time kills deals,” they wrote. “This is an old business saying and the essence of why we are pushing to get the bipartisan infrastructure bill through Congress and immediately to President Biden’s desk — as the president himself requested the day after it passed the Senate.”
The bottom line: Given the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden could use a win — and a messy intraparty battle is probably the last thing the White House wants at this point. As of now, though, any deal on the budget and infrastructure remains very much in question. Gottheimer and several other moderates in his group have indicated a willingness to negotiate, meaning that Democratic leaders may still be able to find a path forward, but at this point it looks like House leaders will hold a vote tonight daring the moderates holdouts to oppose the budget resolution.
Read more about the Democratic standoff at Politico.