House Democratic leaders managed to get past moderates to push President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar budget plan over a crucial hurdle Monday night. They were hoping to put aside an intraparty fight that could threaten their domestic infrastructure agenda.
As lawmakers returned to the evening session, tensions rose and moderate lawmakers threatened with withholding their votes for the $3.5 billion plan. They demanded that the House approve the $1 trillion package of road and power grid projects, as well as other infrastructure projects, which has already been approved by the Senate.
As the evening progressed, the chamber became impassible and plans were lost. Leaders and legislators huddled at the Capitol to try to reach an agreement.
Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, urged Democrats to not stall during a private caucus and to take advantage of this opportunity to fulfill the promises Biden made to Americans.
According to Pelosi, who spoke anonymously to keep the private comments secret, “Right now we have an opportunity for us to pass something so significant for our country and so transformative that we haven’t seen anything like It,”
Pelosi said it was “unfortunate”, that they were discussing the process while they should have been debating the policy. She said, “We can’t waste this majority and the Democratic White House by failing to pass what we need to,”
The Republicans were completely opposed to President Trump’s plans so Democratic leaders tried to find a way to get out of the potentially disastrous standoff between moderate and progressive wings within the party that could lead to Biden’s agenda.
Pelosi’s leadership tried to avoid the issue by convincing lawmakers to vote to start the process and save policy fight for the months ahead. They will then be crafting and debating details of the $3.5 trillion budget proposal.
Each chairperson of a powerful committee urged his colleagues to keep moving forward.
“There is still a lot of work to be done on the legislative issues that will play out in the coming month. However, for now, it’s about: Shall we proceed?” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
The moderates weren’t fully on board, so a second meeting was called immediately to continue discussion. Unexpectedly, what had been a night full of scheduled votes ended in a halt.
Nine moderate Democrats addressed their party’s top leaders late last week and signed a letter expressing their opposition to Biden’s larger infrastructure plan without considering the smaller public works program that had passed the Senate. In recent days, other moderates voiced similar concerns.
“I am bewildered at my party’s misguided stratagem to make passage the popular, already-written bipartisan infrastructure bill contingent on passage of the contentious yet-to-be written, partisan reconciliation bill,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a leader in the centrist Blue Dog caucus. It’s bad policy, and yes, it’s also bad politics.
Every vote counts in a narrowly divided House. A few dissidents could end the Democratic majority’s chances of passing any proposal.
It’s impossible to imagine that Pelosi (D-Calif.), would allow a humiliating defeat with Biden’s domestic agenda at risk. This is especially true given that the package contains priorities such as child care, paid leave, and Medicare expansion. It also comes at a time when the president is already being criticized for his handling of withdrawal from Afghanistan.
This fall, the $3.5 trillion budget resolution will be the starting point for further legislation that directs money to the environment, social safety net and other programs in the next ten years.
This huge amount is central to Biden’s vision of helping families and fighting climate change. It is also progressives” highest priority. All of it is financed largely by tax increases on the wealthy and big business.
The Progressives wanted to know the Biden budget priorities before agreeing to the smaller package. They were concerned that it would not be enough down-payment for his goals.
The moderates demand the opposite. They insist that Congress send the bipartisan, smaller infrastructure measure to Biden as soon as possible so that he can sign it before political winds shift. This would secure a victory that they can point to during their next year’s reelection campaigns.
Late last week, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) stated that “The House cannot afford to wait months or to do anything to risk losing” the infrastructure bill. He is a leader among the nine moderate mavericks, who each issued statements reaffirming their desire for the infrastructure vote to come first.
The White House has supported Pelosi’s leadership of her party in a carefully planned strategy to keep progressive and moderate lawmakers on board.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, reiterated Monday Biden’s support of Pelosi’s plans. Psaki called it a healthy debate within the party, and stated that it was a “high-class problem to be having” as Democrats discuss the details of the legislation.
Republicans claimed that the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan to move forward is not sufficient to address “the crisis facing American families” and will lead to higher inflation, and more deficits.