Two of the Biden administration’s legislative priorities are in peril as moderates and progressives among House Democrats remain in a standoff over which should come to the floor first.
Democratic lawmakers told The Post they are bracing for a tense two weeks, as liberals threaten to derail the passage of a Senate-passed, bipartisan, $1.2 trillion hard infrastructure bill if a sweeping, $3.5 trillion social spending bill doesn’t pass both chambers first — while centrists are making similar threats if the bipartisan bill does not see a vote by leadership’s promised Sept. 27 deadline.
Progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) have asserted they have the votes to tank the bipartisan bill if both chambers don’t pass the massive reconciliation bill — which allows Democrats to bypass the 60-vote threshold for passage in the upper chamber — that looks to address an array of issues including climate change and the expansion of social programs like Medicare.
“It will not pass,” Jayapal said of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday.
Moderates — who struck a deal with leadership to bring the “hard infrastructure” bill to the floor by Sept. 27 — believe it’s critical that the $1.2 trillion plan come to the floor with or without the passage of the additional package, with multiple lawmakers arguing that it would provide President Biden with a critical win.
Key centrists including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have raised concerns about the price tag for the mass spending bill, with Manchin calling for Congress to “hit the pause button” on the $3.5 trillion measure.
Democratic centrists have also raised concerns about the speedy timeline and certain provisions in the sweeping bill, with multiple members telling The Post that moving on a massive bill without having the time to fully process what’s in it could be a liability in what is already expected to be a difficult midterm election year.
“I believe that Speaker Pelosi is the ultimate legislator and she committed to getting the votes and she will — she always does. I think it’s very difficult for people to actually take down the president’s key infrastructure bill and 2 million jobs a year,” one hopeful senior Democratic lawmaker told The Post.
“I just don’t really buy that ultimately that’s what will happen, so we’ll get it done. And, you know, I think on reconciliation that’s still what can get to 51, and we’ll get something done there, too.”
Sinema has also threatened to tank the reconciliation bill if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) doesn’t make good on her deal to bring the bipartisan bill to the floor, Politico first reported.
The stalemate between the different factions presents a significant hurdle for Democratic leaders due to the razor-thin majorities in both chambers, leaving leadership with very little room for error, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) needing to keep his entire caucus together and Pelosi working with just a two-vote margin.
With Manchin calling for a reconciliation package closer to $1.5 trillion in spending, Democratic leaders are tamping down progressives’ assertion that they should be spending more than the $3.5 trillion approved in their budget last month.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to members of her caucus on Monday, Pelosi noted that they may not be able to get everything they had hoped for into the bill, with the Senate parliamentarian having ruled that immigration reform could not be included in the legislation.
“The President and Senate Democrats sent us a budget resolution with a cap of $3.5 trillion. I have promised Members that we would not have House Members vote for a bill with a higher topline than would be passed by the Senate. Hopefully, that will be at the $3.5 trillion number. We must be prepared for adjustments according to the Byrd rule and an agreed to number,” she wrote.
“As we review our options, we must do so with the recognition that the reconciliation package must be substantial as it must address the needs of America’s working families and the urgent necessity to address the climate crisis. We must Build Back Better with initiatives that include the Biden Child Tax Credit, child care, home health care, universal pre-K, free community college, funding for minority serving institutions (MSIs) and improvements to Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA. We must Build Back Better with the important climate initiatives in our House bill. The President has set us on a course that does not end with this reconciliation bill.”
While challenges are evident, Democrats on both sides aren’t losing hope that they can reach a compromise.
“I think it gets messy, but I think it gets done,” one Democrat told The Post of both bills.
“I feel everyone wins a standoff in the end, but we’ve got to wait and see. Everything is just kind of breaking out today,” a progressive Democrat told The Post on Monday evening. “I wouldn’t panic, everyone just needs to stop panicking — that never helps anything.”