US Chamber Says It Supports Standalone Infrastructure Bill, Rejects Reconciliation

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
October 5, 2021 Updated: October 5, 2021

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports the Senate-passed infrastructure bill but not the mammoth spending package that some lawmakers and President Joe Biden are trying to tie to the infrastructure legislation.

The chamber made clear its view in a statement late on Monday.

It said it “fully supports” passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which the Senate passed about two months ago, and “adamantly opposes” the spending package, which Democrats are trying to ram through Congress using a process called reconciliation.

“Prior to last Friday, it was clear that Congress could enact the infrastructure bill without enacting the reconciliation bill. Now, Congressional Democrats are linking the two bills together, resulting in holding the infrastructure bill hostage until the reconciliation bill moves forward,” the chamber said in a statement.

“We will not back off our opposition to reconciliation because of our support for infrastructure. And we will continue to fight to delink the two bills so that we can enact the long-overdue infrastructure bill and avoid the economy crushing reconciliation bill,” it added.

The position joins the chamber, the largest lobbying group in the country, with moderate Democrats and some Republicans who hope to pass the infrastructure bill with no strings attached.

But so-called progressives, backed by Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), are refusing to promise to vote for the bill unless the House first passes the reconciliation package, which is pegged at $3.5 trillion.

The battle has exposed serious rifts within the Democratic Party. The party controls both legislative chambers and the White House but holds slim majorities in the House and the Senate, leaving it with little room for defections.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and its 96 members have more than enough heft to derail the infrastructure push, even with some Republicans pledging votes for the bill. Nineteen Republicans helped pass it in the Senate.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), meanwhile, oppose the large budget package. Democrats can’t afford a single defection in the upper chamber.

Negotiations continue after Pelosi twice delayed scheduled votes on the infrastructure piece, bowing to Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and her caucus.

The chamber has shifted to the left in recent years. It endorsed dozens of Democrats running for Congress in the 2020 election, angering conservatives.

House Republican leadership this week reportedly kicked the chamber from its strategy calls concerning the infrastructure and reconciliation packages.

Some Democrats have criticized the chamber for its stance on the packages.

“Reconciliation may be our last best shot at meaningful climate action, but @USChamber is doing everything they can to stop the bill from passing,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote on Twitter last month. “We’re fighting for a livable future, while they fight for polluters.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.