The Senate’s approval of a massive infrastructure bill on Tuesday sends the proposal to the House — and confronts Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' MORE (D-Calif.) with some tricky questions over how to proceed.
Already, Pelosi is facing competing pressure from moderate Democrats, who want a quick vote to notch a big bipartisan win, and liberals, who want to sit on the bill until the Senate passes an even larger social benefits package, a tactic that Pelosi has enthusiastically endorsed.
House leaders took the unexpected step Tuesday of cutting their seven-week recess short, with Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerGOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court Lobbying world Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Feds target illegal gas practices MORE (D-Md.) announcing in a letter to lawmakers that the chamber will return to session on Aug. 23 to consider the larger Democratic package, assuming Senate adoption this week.
That increases the odds of House passage of the infrastructure bill sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t shut the door on another group of powerful voices urging the Speaker to reject the Senate infrastructure bill as it stands, and force conference talks between the two chambers.
That’s a risky strategy, given the long, delicate nature of the Senate negotiations and the necessity of Republican support for the final product.
But it’s also an approach that had powerful advocates, including Hoyer and Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sticks to his Afghanistan deadline Biden commends Pelosi for 'masterful' leadership Overnight Energy: Democrats tout new report to defend KeystoneXL cancellation MORE (D-Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. DeFazio has been highly critical of Democrats in the Senate and White House for excluding climate provisions contained in his House-passed bill — an argument likely to gain steam in the wake of a new United Nations report warning of the existential threat posed by global warming.
“Unfortunately, this package falls short when it comes to addressing climate change like the existential threat it is, and the world’s scientists only reinforced the need for additional action in the IPCC’s latest alarming report,” DeFazio said Tuesday in a statement. He did not mention a conference but vowed to continue pressing for “transformational funding and policies” to reduce transportation pollution in phase two of the Democrats’ infrastructure plan.
Tuesday’s Senate vote approving the bipartisan agreement lends enormous momentum to the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package, which stands among President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE’s most pressing domestic priorities. And within minutes of the successful Senate vote, two groups of House moderates called on Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to bring the legislation to the floor immediately.
Eight moderates, led by Problem Solvers Caucus co-Chairman Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerCongress braces for spending fights amid threat of government shutdown Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill Sirota slams 'fake argument' for splitting infrastructure package, reconciliation bill MORE (D-N.J.), wrote in a letter to Pelosi that “we must bring this bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House floor for a standalone vote” without any strings attached to the larger $3.5 trillion package.
“After years of waiting, we cannot afford unnecessary delays to finally deliver on a physical infrastructure package,” wrote the moderate Democrats, including Reps. Susie LeeSuzanne (Susie) Kelley LeeMORE (Nev.), Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Manchin: key energy provision of spending package 'makes no sense' Six moderate Democrats raise concerns about spending bill's energy measures Private donations for Texas border wall surged to M in August MORE (Texas), Henry Cuellar (Texas) and Jared Golden (Maine).
And the leaders of the Blue Dog Democrats issued a statement echoing calls for a quick vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure package.
“The Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition remain opposed to any effort to unnecessarily delay consideration of these critical infrastructure investments, which will create good-paying jobs, keep American businesses competitive, and grow our nation’s economy,” wrote Democratic Reps. Tom O’Halleran (Ariz.), Ed CaseEdward (Ed) CaseMORE (Hawaii), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema MORE (Fla.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Meeks on being mistaken for a staffer: 'Glad I still blend in with the cool kids' How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation MORE (Va.) and Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderDemocrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE (Ore.).
Pelosi, however, has telegraphed other plans, making clear in recent weeks that she won’t stage a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the Senate adopts a second package amalgamating a long list of Democratic priorities, including an expansion of safety net programs, environmental protections, health care coverage and immigrant benefits.
The House would then vote afterward on both bills.
Speaking Tuesday at an event in San Francisco, Pelosi praised the Senate for passing the bill. But she quickly emphasized that it falls far short of what Biden and congressional Democrats intended when they launched their infrastructure push, and she dismissed calls to vote on infrastructure before the details of a reconciliation package emerge.
“Reconciliation will be a fuller reflection of our values,” she said.
Her message has heartened liberals in the caucus, who remain distrustful of Senate moderates and want to use the infrastructure vote as leverage to compel those senators to back the nascent second package. Because the social benefits legislation is slated to move under special budget rules, known as reconciliation, no Republican support will be needed to pass it through the upper chamber provided all 50 members of the Democratic caucus stick together.
“We have been clear for three months that we are not going to vote for the bipartisan package unless there is a reconciliation package that has passed, that includes sufficient funding for our five priorities,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails House is no easy road for Biden, Democrats on .5T package MORE (D-Wash.), who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “That has been our position for three months. It also became the position of the Speaker, and the Senate majority leader, and so we’re grateful for that.
“We need to deliver the entirety of these two packages together.”
Yet DeFazio has warned that crucial elements of his $715 billion water and transportation package, which the House passed last month, will be lost if they’re not incorporated into the bipartisan infrastructure bill since the budget rules don’t allow for policy changes to move through reconciliation. He’s sounding alarms that without those “transformational” changes — including an aggressive shift toward rail and mass transit — the Senate bill would simply ossify “highway-centric” policies that have contributed heavily to atmospheric carbon dioxide, thereby exacerbating the climate crisis.
“You can’t make significant policy — you can’t do the things I’m going to do to make states look at alternatives to just paving everything over — in the dead-guy rule. Robert Byrd would say no,” a frustrated DeFazio told reporters just before the recess. He was referring to budget rules named after the late West Virginia senator — rules the Transportation chairman abhors.
Hoyer, an institutionalist, has also endorsed the conference strategy. And in the wake of Tuesday’s Senate vote, some rank-and-file Democrats are piling on, wary that the House is being trampled by the upper chamber.
“The Senate #infrastructure bill is a step forward but leaves out many House priorities, including member-designated projects,” Rep. Dwight EvansDwight (Dewey) EvansDemocrats on key panel offer bill on solar tax incentive It's now Pelosi's move on bipartisan roads bill Group launches first national ad campaign to celebrate America's 250th anniversary MORE (D-Pa.) tweeted. “I support @TransportDems Chairman @RepPeterDeFazio’s push for a House-Senate conference – the House is a co-equal chamber.”
Despite the grumbling from some liberals angry over the climate exclusions and a host of conservative Republicans objecting to the levels of new spending, the infrastructure package is expected to pass through the House with bipartisan support.
It’s unclear how many House Republicans would back the proposal. But Rep. Tom ReedTom ReedLIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup It's now Pelosi's move on bipartisan roads bill The Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act is an industry game-changer MORE (R-N.Y.), a prominent member of the Problem Solvers group, suggested it would be a significant tally.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said, “but we’ll be there.”