House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters to brace for a long night Thursday as she tries to pass President Biden’s massive spending plans — despite concern from moderates over how a $1.75 trillion social spending bill would be paid for and whether there is still a will for it after Tuesday’s brutal election results.
Pundits say the loss by Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia to Glenn Youngkin and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy eking out a reelection win over Jack Ciattarelli reflect opposition to Biden’s agenda, and even Vice President Kamala Harris had called the Virginia race a bellwether.
Still, Pelosi (D-Calif.) has seemingly doubled down, adding back provisions such as four weeks of paid family leave and an increased SALT tax exemption that had been scrapped from the large spending bill as of last week.
She said she will try to break months of gridlock by passing both a Senate-passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which progressives in her party have held hostage until the Senate agrees to the larger spending bill, and that $1.75 trillion social and environmental spending bill.
But asked whether she has the votes, Pelosi talked about concerns members of her caucus have over the spending and how its paid for, especially amid rising inflation.
“So … we have questions that members had. Whether it’s about ‘is it really paid for?’ That was one of the — yesterday we had a session where listened to them and they want to know is it really paid for — and how,” she said.
“We’re gonna pass both bills. But in order to do so we have to have votes for both bills and that’s where we are,” Pelosi said at a press conference.
Pelosi said that “no” the House would not simply approve the infrastructure bill without the larger spending package. House leftists say both bills must pass and have threatened to tank the infrastructure bill as leverage.
Centrist Democrats say they’re concerned that the House’s 2,135-page version of the social and environmental bill, released Wednesday, hasn’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
Biden last week announced a compromise “framework” that he said would cost $1.75 trillion, but House Democrats rolled into the potentially up-for-a-vote bill many costly add-ons, including four weeks of paid parental and family leave and a repeal of the $10,000 cap on state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxes by residents of high-tax states like New York.
House Democrats could change course and abandon or delay their plans for votes on Thursday after House leaders perform an early-afternoon whip count.
With a slim eight-seat House advantage, Pelosi can afford to lose few leftists, who are concerned about the long odds of the social bill passing the Senate, or centrists, who say it’s irresponsible to pass massive bills without knowing their cost.
“Nobody elected [Biden] to be FDR. They elected him to be normal and stop the chaos,” Rep. Abigail Spanberge (D-Va.) told the New York Times Wednesday.
The final form and fate of the social and environmental package will be determined by Democratic centrists in the evenly divided Senate, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). The bill can pass with a bare majority in the Senate under special budget reconciliation rules.
Manchin said that the Tuesday election outcome — with Republican victories in Virginia and a dramatic drop in support for Democrats in New Jersey — reflects voter concern about worsening inflation and the rising cost of goods, which critics attribute in part to prior COVID-19 relief legislation.
“I think they spoke loud and clear at the voting booth. And I hope everybody listens,” Manchin said Wednesday. He said in a Fox News interview that he thought the message from voters was “kind of slow down and take a breath. Let’s look at this.”