Nine House Democrats are standing firm in their commitment to not consider Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) budget proposal before the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has long planned to pass the infrastructure bill and Sanders’ budget at the same time as part of what Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) calls President Joe Biden’s “two-track strategy.” In an Aug. 12 letter to Pelosi, nine moderate Democrats called the bill “a bipartisan victory for our nation” and rejected this “two-track” approach. The letter concluded, “We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law.”
Pelosi originally responded to the efforts by the nine—Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Carolyn Bordeaux (D-Ga.), Filemon Vela (D-Texas), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Vincente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)—as “amateur hour.” But since then, the nine have stood strong in their commitment outlined in the letter and have been in negotiation with the Speaker and the White House.
The situation has intensified as several representatives have reiterated their commitment to not passing the budget before the infrastructure bill. This renewed resolve comes after news yesterday that moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) were privately advising the nine representatives on these negotiations.
Case said, “We must pass the $1 trillion Senate physical infrastructure package immediately and send it to the president without changing it and without linking it to the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure package.”
Bordeaux urged that the situation be resolved quickly, warning that “We cannot wait … time kills deals.”
This is not to say that some of the nine do not plan to support the resolution.
Gottheimer said, “We should first vote immediately on the bipartisan infrastructure package, send it to the president’s desk, and then quickly consider the budget resolution, which, I plan to support.”
Vela said that the infrastructure bill should be brought “to the floor for a vote and immediate passage next week for the president’s swift signature.” He insisted that after that bill is passed, “I will support a budget resolution and look forward to the negotiation of a reconciliation package.”
But one signer, Schrader, is not giving the same assurances. He worries that “the ambiguity of the reconciliation process would leave the bipartisan infrastructure package in limbo and lead to possible failure.”
All nine House Democrats worry that tying the infrastructure bill together with the controversial budget will cause Republicans not to vote for it.
But the reticence of some to commit to voting for the budget is not a good sign for Pelosi. With a thinly united caucus of 220 seats against Republicans’ tightly-knit caucus of 212, Pelosi can spare no more than three ‘nays’ from her party. Any more would put the vote at a 216-216 tie or outright rejection.
But House moderates are not the only ones attaching conditions to an ‘aye’ vote. In an Aug. 11 press release by the Congressional Progressive Caucus—which at 95 members is nearly half of all House Democrats—the left-leaning group said it will “continue to stay focused on ensuring the passage of this bill before we can vote for the smaller bipartisan package sent over by the Senate.”
With these commitments from the left and center, Pelosi lacks the votes for either bill to pass. Their renewed insistence today indicates that the moderates are not planning on relenting; but the progressives are unlikely to relent either, as they fear that the moderates in their party will vote against the budget resolution without the threat of not passing the infrastructure bill.
The attitudes towards both pieces of legislation by the different elements of the Democratic bloc speak to the fragility of the coalition. If neither the moderates nor the progressives agree to a compromise, it is likely that both bills will fail to reach the threshold for passage.