Republicans help House pass $1.2T infrastructure bill after Dem ‘clusterf—‘

Republicans help House pass $1.2T infrastructure bill after Dem 'clusterf---'

A handful of House Republicans bailed out Democrats Friday night, providing the decisive votes to pass a Senate-approved $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill after a day and night of liberal infighting that nearly sank President Biden’s agenda. 

The measure was approved 228-206 with 13 Republicans joining 215 Democrats, sending it to Biden’s desk 87 days after it cleared the Senate in August. Six Democrats voted against the bill, enough to defeat it had Republicans held together.

The vote took place more than 15 hours after the House convened Friday morning and followed a day of frantic intra-party negotiations among Democrats, with Biden himself calling far-left members of his party in an effort to convince them to allow the infrastructure bill to be brought to the chamber floor.

“Well, the whole day was a clusterf—, right?” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) told reporters at one point.

Members of the 95-strong Congressional Progressive Caucus had vowed they would vote against the bipartisan bill unless a $1.75 trillion social spending plan, known as the Build Back Better Act, was passed at the same time. Five moderate House Democrats who support the infrastructure plan, however, have balked at the size of the social spending bill and demanded the Congressional Budget Office examine its effect on the federal deficit.

The House convened Friday morning before coming to a resolution on the vote about 15 hours later.
The House convened Friday morning before coming to a resolution on the vote about 15 hours later.

Progressives grudgingly backed down Friday night in exchange for written assurances that moderates would back the Build Back Better bill down the line — if the CBO determines it does not increase the federal budget deficit. 

One progressive, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), claimed his moderate colleagues had “moved the goalposts.”

“There’s just tremendous desire to get this done, to a person, certainly within our Progressive Caucus,” he told reporters. “I want to get this done, the president wants to get this. We want to put some points on the board. We thought we were on track to do it, and now we’re trying to adjust, frankly, to some curveballs that were thrown earlier in the day.”

Progressive Caucus members huddled for hours Friday evening for hours to discuss the best path forward, with Biden imploring members by phone to vote in favor of the measure. 

The five Democratic centrists — Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kathleen Rice of New York, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Ed Case of Hawaii — issued a statement attempting to reassure progressives they are committed to passing the reconciliation legislation later this month. 

“We commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office – but in no event later than the week of November 15 – consistent with the topline for revenues and investments in the ‘White House Preliminary Budgetary Estimate of the Build Back Better Act.’ document presented to the Democratic Caucus on November 4, 2021 by the White House,” the statement read. 

“Further in the event the fiscal information received from the Congressional Budget Office is inconsistent with the ‘White House Preliminary Budgetary Estimate of the Build Back Better Act’ document, we remain committed to working to resolve any discrepancies in order to pass the Build Back Better legislation.” 

In response, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairman Pramila Jayapal issued her own statement saying that progressives would support both the infrastructure bill and a procedural vote on the social spending bill. 

Earlier Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), told reporters that he expected to hold a vote on the social spending bill the week of Nov. 15 and that he was “absolutely convinced” it would pass. 

The bipartisan infrastructure measure will allocate $110 billion to roads, bridges and other projects.
The bipartisan infrastructure measure will allocate $110 billion to roads, bridges and other projects.
Christopher Sadowski

Democrats are trying to ram the Build Back Better Act through Congress without Republican support through the parliamentary maneuver of reconciliation, which allows them to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote legislative filibuster. However, the measure — aimed at tackling some of the Biden Administration’s top priorities including climate change and the expansion of social programs like Medicare — is expected to be further amended in the 50-50 Senate due to objections from moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

“They’re working off the House bill,” Manchin told Fox News Wednesday when discussing Democratic efforts to push the bill through that chamber. “That’s not going to be the bill I work off of.”

Earlier this week, Pelosi directed House committee chairs to attach paid family leave language to the social spending bill despite Manchin’s objection to its inclusion, a move applauded by progressive lawmakers. 

In an effort to get the entire Democratic caucus on board, the legislation was further amended on Thursday to change provisions pertaining to drug pricing and the state and local tax deduction (SALT) — a priority for members that represent high-tax states like New York and New Jersey. 

Under the latest version of the Build Back Better legislation, the SALT cap would increase from $10,000 to $80,00 through 2030 before returning to $10,000 in 2031.

Drug pricing language was also altered to provide an extra year — moving it from 12 years to 13 years — before Medicare is permitted to negotiate prices on biologics.

The bipartisan infrastructure measure — negotiated by a group of 22 bipartisan lawmakers led by Sinema and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — includes $550 billion in new spending, with $110 billion set to be allocated toward roads, bridges and other projects; $65 billion toward broadband, $66 billion to be spent on passenger and freight rail, $55 billion for water infrastructure, $39.2 billion for public transit, $47.2 billion for resiliency purposes, $7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure and $21 billion to address pollution. 

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