As divides between Democratic moderates and progressives continue to threaten the passage of the infrastructure and budget bills, Democratic leaders insist that the two pivotal pieces of legislation will pass.
On Friday, President Joe Biden went to the House to negotiate between the two wings.
Moderates have demanded a swift passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed through the Senate by a bipartisan vote. Progressives have demanded that the much more partisan $3.5 trillion budget bill be passed before the House even considers the infrastructure bill. Each group has threatened to tank the priorities of the other if their demands go unmet, and each controls enough votes to follow through on these threats.
In the Senate, divisions persist as well. Recently, moderate Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reiterated their opposition to the budget bill, which cannot pass without their support.
Biden, who has been deeply involved in negotiations with Manchin, Sinema, and other moderates, is focusing his efforts on the House, which is the first hurdle the legislation must overcome.
‘I Don’t Think Anyone Knows What’s Going On’
One Democratic congressman who supports the reconciliation bill, Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), indicated on Friday that he and other congressmen were uncertain about what the situation.
“I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on,” Crow said.
Democratic leaders have been deeply involved in negotiations with the two wings, but have been tight-lipped on the content of those negotiations.
Asked whether the infrastructure bill could pass, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said during a Sept. 29 appearance on MSNBC, “Right now, it doesn’t look like it.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also indicated this general lack of confidence among the Democratic ranks. Asked whether he was confident that the reconciliation bill would pass, Hoyer said simply, “Nope.”
Adding to this atmosphere, throughout the week progressives have one by one restated their commitment to a vote on the budget before the infrastructure bill is considered, as moderates have restated their opposition to such a large bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) advised progressives in the House on in a tweet: “No infrastructure bill should pass without a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. That is the agreement that was made & that is the agreement that must be kept. Physical infrastructure is important, but the needs of working families & combatting climate change is more important.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the progressive caucus, explained on Twitter: “It’s not the infrastructure bill THEN maybe the Build Back Better [reconciliation] package down the road. That wasn’t the deal. Progressives won’t back down. We’re fighting the people’s fight and we’re going to deliver the entire ‘Build Back Better’ agenda.”
At the same time, Sinema and Manchin doubled down on not supporting any $3.5 trillion bill.
“Senator Sinema said publicly more than two months ago, before Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that she would not support a bill costing $3.5 trillion,” Sinema’s office said in a statement shared on her Twitter account, confirming that Sinema stood by her original opposition.
Manchin in a statement released to Twitter called the $3.5 trillion budget “fiscal insanity.” Manchin also indicated for the first time that he would not support a bill larger than $1.5 trillion—a huge blow for progressives who feel that $3.5 trillion is already a difficult compromise.
‘We’re Gonna Land the Plane’ on Both Bills
Still, despite the appearance of uncertainty and continued division, Democratic leaders insist that the bills are moving on schedule and will pass.
Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said on Friday that even though moderates and progressives are ideologically divided, “there is no disagreement in the caucus about the importance of both [the infrastructure bill and budget reconciliation bill].”
“We’re working through these issues and I think as we always do we’re gonna land the plane,” he added.
Jeffries emphasized that House Democrats, despite their disagreements, remain committed to the “two-track agenda” of passing the Build Back Better Act and the infrastructure bill. In the Senate, Jeffries noted, the future of the former bill is still unclear, but Jeffries said Democratic leadership is hoping for an indication from the Senate that they are willing to pass the bill as well.
Jeffries extolled Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her success in “landing the plane” under much more challenging conditions, such as her negotiations with Republican Presidents Donald Trump and George Bush to pass legislation.
In view of this, Jeffries asked, “Do you think we’re not gonna arrive at an agreement with President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats? That’s speculation that is not going to end in a good place.”
Jeffries was also asked if Biden would be able to successfully “close the deal” on the infrastructure and reconciliation bills during his visit to the Capitol.
“We’ve maintained from the very beginning that we were gonna close the deal, and [we’re] looking forward to getting both the infrastructure agreement done as well as the Build Back Better Act done,” Jeffries concluded.
Friday morning, Pelosi was challenged on whether a vote on the infrastructure bill would be doable on Friday. “There will be a vote today,” she replied.
After Manchin’s statement restating his opposition to the budget bill, Pelosi was asked whether it seemed like he would be open to further negotiation.
Pelosi responded “Yes it does.”
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.