WASHINGTON – California spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi signaled to Democrats Monday that she would push a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill this week to save President Biden’s agenda in Congress, even if the party goes over a broader social safety net remained divided.
Progressive lawmakers have long warned they would not vote for the infrastructure bill, which the Senate passed last month, until a far larger $ 3.5 trillion domestic policy and tax package also cleared the Chamber.
But in private remarks to her group on Monday evening, Ms. Pelosi effectively decoupled the two bills, saying that Democrats need more time to resolve their differences over the multi-trillion-dollar social policy plan. The move was a gamble that liberals who had resisted moving the infrastructure law on their own would support it in a scheduled vote on Thursday.
It also left unclear the fate of the more expensive social safety net package that the Democrats are pushing through with the accelerated reconciliation process to protect it from a Republican filibuster. But with narrow margins of control in either house, Democratic leaders must keep all of their senators united, and they can afford to lose only three votes in the House of Representatives.
Ms. Pelosi said her change in strategy did not come about until it became clear that Democrats would need to reduce the size of the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package. Mr Biden has been negotiating privately with conservative Democrats who opposed the cost of reaching a final figure, and planned to meet two of the leading objectors, Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, at the White House on Tuesday. to meet III of West Virginia.
The spokeswoman outlined her new approach to Democrats in the House of Representatives Monday night after a call with New York President and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, as the three worked to unite their members behind the details of the package.
Ms Pelosi said Democrats were on schedule this week to push through the reconciliation package until 10 days ago when she heard the overall cost needed to be cut, according to a person familiar with her remarks, who described her on condition of anonymity .
But for weeks it has been clear that the conservative Democrats would not accept the size of the bill.
MEPs from both chambers hope to be able to quickly iron out the remaining differences between the moderate and liberal factions of their party, although many of the specific demands of the objectors are still unclear. Ms. Pelosi reiterated that she would not pass a reconciliation law that could not pass the Senate.
But she told Democrats that she wanted to allow time for further negotiations and avoid a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. This bill, due to be voted on Thursday, includes $ 550 billion in new funding over a 10-year period and includes a number of key transportation programs due to expire by the end of the fiscal year on September 30th.
But even as Ms. Pelosi tried to rally the party before the vote, it remained unclear whether enough Liberal Democrats would give in to their insistence that the reconciliation package be moved first.
Moderate Democrats remained confident that enough Republicans would support the Infrastructure Bill to clear the house and send the legislation to Mr Biden’s desk.
However, some progressives pushed back the speaker’s plan to decouple the two bills, saying they still would not support the infrastructure measure until they heard assurances from the Senate moderates that they would adopt key components of the reconciliation legislation.
“I want you to make your demands clear so that we can get involved,” said Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, about Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema.
“The bills are linked,” added Ms. Omar. “And they have to be connected so that something can happen to the house.”
As they worked feverishly to keep both parts of Mr Biden’s agenda on track, Democratic leaders faced two more pressing budget deadlines: the elimination of state funding at midnight Thursday and the breach of the national debt ceiling that would cause a default. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed lawmakers Tuesday that the deadline to avoid default could come as early as October 18, narrowing the time window for Congress to act.
Senate Republicans on Monday blocked an emergency spending bill that would have lifted the legal limit on federal borrowing, forcing Democratic leaders to consider a new strategy to avert a financial crisis.
In their phone call on Monday, the Democratic leaders and Mr Biden discussed the possibility of using the reconciliation process to raise the debt ceiling, according to an official familiar with the discussion, who confirmed it on condition of anonymity. The maneuver that Republicans have repeatedly called for would be complex and time consuming, and so far the Democrats have insisted not to resort to it.