Nancy Pelosi pulled a vote on the infrastructure bill amid progressive opposition.
Biden unveiled a $1.75 trillion social-spending framework on Thursday, cutting many proposals.
Progressives have remained adamant they will not vote for infrastructure until they approve of the social-spending reconciliation bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled the plug on a vote for President Joe Biden’s $550 billion infrastructure bill for the second time in a month, as scores of progressives refused to back it without a larger $1.75 trillion social spending bill clearing the Senate.
It capped a frenzied week of activity on Capitol Hill that saw Democrats leave Biden empty-handed as he traveled abroad for a major climate summit in Scotland. The president hoped he could tout domestic achievements back home to demonstrate America was serious about fighting the climate emergency.
For weeks, Democratic leaders tried securing an agreement on a skinny social spending plan containing the bulk of Biden’s agenda with Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a pair of centrist holdouts. It led the party to dramatically curtail their economic ambitions to earn their critical votes, jettisoning provisions like paid leave and tuition-free community college from the package.
Biden traveled to Capitol Hill to personally urge Democrats to end their squabbling and get behind the social spending framework. It would provide universal pre-K, renew monthly cash payments to American families, expand healthcare access, transition the US onto cleaner energy sources and provide childcare subsidies. It’s paid for with a collection of tax hikes on the rich and large firms, including a corporate minimum tax and a new surtax on multimillionaires.
“We badly need a vote on both of these measures,” Biden told House Democrats, per a person familiar with his remarks. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week.”
But Biden’s pitch to dislodge the infrastructure bill landed with a thud. House progressives dug in on their position that both the infrastructure and social spending bills must be approved in tandem. They had encouragement from another pair of influential Senate counterparts: Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachussetts.
“There is too much at stake for working families and our communities to settle for something that can be later misunderstood, amended or abandoned altogether,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement. “That is why dozens of our members insist on keeping both bills linked and cannot vote only for one without until they can be voted on altogether.”
Progressive distrust of Manchin and Sinema is running high. Both refused to throw their support behind Biden’s framework on Thursday. The West Virginia Democrat only told reporters he was “continuing to negotiate in good faith,” though he suggested later in the day that he could back the $1.75 trillion price tag.
Then Sinema wrote on Twitter that “significant progress” was being made on the emerging social spending bill, adding “I look forward to getting this done.”
Their comments did little to quell progressive fears that both could still sink the bill. “Everything those two do is alarming,” Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota told Insider, arguing their obstruction was preventing Biden from a scoring a major win on his economic agenda.
There’s few signs that progressives will drop a blockade that started in the summer, frustrating some centrists in the party. “People are frustrated right now,” Rep. Jim Costa of California told Insider. “There’s a lack of trust and you got a lot of members that have been here 4 years or less and they don’t seem to understand how you get things done.”
The framework is likely to undergo changes as Democrats in both chambers press to include some of their biggest priorities like a paid leave program and prescription drug price controls. What’s likely to stay the same is the price tag, the new ceiling for Biden’s economic agenda.
Pelosi said earlier on Thursday she wanted paid leave back in the package after it was ejected due to resistance from Manchin. That may lead to several more weeks of negotiations on what’s ultimately in and out.
“The deal isn’t done until the Senate acts,” Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden of Oregon, a chief advocate of drug price negotiations, told Insider. “This is not done.”
Still, some are taking solace at the talks picking up speed. “There has been more negotiation that has happened in the last three weeks than has happened in the last many months,” Jayapal told MSNBC.
Jayapal later told Insider that progressives are backing Biden’s framework as it is, though she’d welcome “additive” changes that garner the support of all 50 Senate Democrats.
As Insider reported, the only investment that did not get cut was $555 billion for the climate – the largest investment in the bill.
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