House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) plans to hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill Thursday after a framework for a larger social spending bill was agreed to by Democrats who have been wrangling over its size and scope for weeks.
Progressives have opposed holding a vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill before the social spending plan was set to go, out of fear that once the bipartisan package was passed the other one would get dropped.
But a framework for the social spending bill, at a scaled back price tag of $1.75 trillion instead of the original $3.5 trillion originally proposed, was announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday morning, and Pelosi said she would introduce the vote later that same day.
Pelosi looks to give Biden a win as he heads to Glasgow for a climate conference with European nations, but it was unclear on Thursday whether she would be able to pull it off.
Sanders calls a halt
Pelosi “said she’s going to hold the vote open until we get a majority,” House Budget Committee Chairman and Pelosi leadership team member John Yarmuth (D-KY) said after a meeting with Biden at the Capitol.
Just minutes after Pelosi said she would call the vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the vote should not be held yet, since he was not sure he could support the much smaller social spending package.
On the other side of the divide, Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) had not yet endorsed the framework for the social package, although they seemed more positive about it than Sanders, who has been pushing for a maximum amount of spending.
Fifty Senators will be needed for the social spending package, which is being passed with budget reconciliation, so even one defection will kill the bill. The bipartisan bill was already passed in the Senate, and has been held up in the House while Democrats argue over the social spending bill.
If enough progressives decide not to vote on the infrastructure package, Pelosi’s hopes for passage on Thursday could go up in smoke.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has rallied about 50 or so members of the progressive caucus to hold up the bill, and she signaled on Thursday that progressives would defy both Pelosi and Biden to continue blocking it with their social spending still in limbo.
Pelosi has ruled Democrats in the House with an iron fist in recent years, making defections like this a rare occurrence. But progressives have gotten such a strong foothold in the Democrat party in recent years, and they seem reluctant to give up now without getting more of what they want in the bill.
It is a matter of serious debate whether any of this additional spending will benefit the country in the long run. Maybe the best thing to happen would be if Democrat infighting killed both bills and put politicians back at square one with any future spending plans.