House Democratic leaders called off an anticipated vote to pass an infrastructure spending bill after talks broke down on the larger reconciliation bill, which left two pieces of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda in doubt for the time being.
Democrats have struggled all week to come up with enough votes in both chambers to pass trillions in new spending that Republicans have, so far, universally resisted. The inability to pass something by week’s end, as well as the breakdown in talks and the postponing of a vote were blows to the party and the White House but also revealed anew just how slim Democrats’ margins are in the House and Senate.
In addition, the postponement also exposed internal divisions within the party, as more moderate members have revolted over the size and costs of the bills, especially the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that contains funding for a leftist wish list of initiatives.
On Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said without equivocation he could not support the larger bill, and there was some doubt as to whether another party moderate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, would support it as well.
That said, neither of the two bills is dead yet; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was optimistic early Friday that they would eventually pass.
“We’re not trillions apart,” she said shortly after midnight, according to reports. “There’ll be a vote today.”
The biggest stumbling block for Pelosi’s Democratic caucus is a group of left-wing progressives who, for months, have said they couldn’t support the smaller $1.5 trillion infrastructure package unless the larger reconciliation bill passed both chambers of Congress first.
But moderates managed to wrest a compromise of sorts from Pelosi to put the infrastructure bill to a vote in her chamber before the end of September in exchange for their support of the resolution measure the previous month.
Over at the White House, there was optimism, however.
“A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever. But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“While Democrats do have some differences, we share common goals of creating good union jobs, building a clean energy future, cutting taxes for working families and small businesses, helping to give those families breathing room on basic expenses—and doing it without adding to the deficit, by making those at the top pay their fair share,” she noted further.
According to The Hill, a number of White House officials including National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and domestic policy adviser Susan Rice met with congressional leaders for hours on Thursday. In addition, they also met with Manchin and Sinema.
Earlier in the day, Manchin touched off anger within the party’s progressive caucus and doubt among other members after he proposed paring the reconciliation measure back to $1.5 trillion from its $3.5 trillion price tag. Several of his Democratic suggested later that his proposal is a non-starter.
“We just, we need a little bit more time. We’re getting that time in order to do it we’re gonna come to an agreement. I’m trying to make sure they understand that I’m at $1.5 trillion,” Manchin said following his meetings with White House officials.
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