In the clearest sign yet that the progressives are running the show, President Biden told House Democrats Friday that there will be no further movement on his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal until the party comes to an agreement on the final form of a larger social spending measure.
“I’m tellin’ ya, we’re gonna get this done,” a surly Biden told reporters following his less than 30-minute meeting before adding that it “doesn’t matter” when the legislation would be passed.
“Doesn’t matter if it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks,” Biden said. “We’re gonna get it done.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — which has refused to go along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass the infrastructure bill until a larger Biden social spending measure is passed in the Senate — acknowledged that “we’re gonna have to come down” from their topline request of $3.5 trillion for the spending plan.
“He was very clear, the two are tied together,” Jayapal said of Biden’s message to lawmakers. “We need to get this reconciliation bill and, you know, it’s going to be tough.”
Senate Democrats are hoping to ram that measure through Congress without Republican support under the process of reconciliation but two moderate senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona say the price tag is too big — and Manchin has put forth a top line $1.5 trillion as the most he would vote yes on.
Progressives led by Jayapal had threatened to tank the infrastructure bill, which was passed by the Senate in August, if it came to a vote before the larger spending proposal. Pelosi (D-Calif.) had initially promised moderate Democrats a vote on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 before letting the deadline slide to Thursday as progressives dug in their heels.
House Democratic leadership were unable to bring the bill to the floor Thursday, but kept members hanging as they tried unsuccessfully to work out an agreement allowing a vote.
Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), another progressive, told The Post that Biden “didn’t seem concerned” about the timeline for any standalone vote on the infrastructure bill.
“He just said we need to get the agreement, and he didn’t set any timeline for how long,” Kim added.
The new topline number for a reconciliation bill remains a topic of hot speculation. Moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told The Post that figure would likely be closer to $2 trillion than $3.5 trillion.
Another moderate, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) noted that Biden “sort of threw out the $2 trillion-ish number a couple of times, and so that’s some certainty we haven’t heard before.”
Democrats currently hold an eight-seat majority in the House of Representatives. With all Republicans expected to vote against the social spending bill, Pelosi can only afford to have three moderate members of her caucus turn against the measure before it fails — if it ever comes up for a vote.