House Democrats punt key vote on budget to Tuesday
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team struggled to round up the votes to move forward with a strategy to enact President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar domestic agenda, ultimately opting to punt a key procedural vote until Tuesday.
After hours of negotiations, Pelosi late on Monday night failed to strike a deal with the leaders of a 10-member bloc of centrists who are demanding a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill before considering a budget resolution that paves the way for a $3.5 trillion spending plan to expand social support programs and combat climate change.
Democratic leaders left House members in limbo all Monday night as to whether there would be a vote on a procedural rule setting up floor debate parameters to consider the budget resolution, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a measure to restore part of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
It wasn’t until after midnight Tuesday that Democratic leaders announced that consideration of the rule wouldn’t happen until after noon.
Pelosi told Democrats over the weekend that the party would aim to complete work on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion spending plan to expand social safety net programs by Oct. 1. Surface transportation programs also expire on that day, creating an incentive for lawmakers to send the bipartisan infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk by then.
But moderates adamant on voting first on the bipartisan infrastructure bill want a more decisive commitment.
When asked if there was discussion of setting a firmer date for voting on the infrastructure legislation, Pelosi was coy.
“We’ll see tomorrow,” Pelosi told reporters as she left the Capitol after midnight.
House Democrats will huddle again at a caucus meeting Tuesday morning, followed by a briefing with Biden administration officials on the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Earlier Monday, in a closed-door emergency meeting with House Democrats, Pelosi and her team pleaded with rank-and-file members, but particularly the centrist holdouts, to unite behind a new strategy to advance Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, something she described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Under that strategy, the rule would automatically deem the budget resolution as adopted so that the House wouldn’t have to take a separate individual vote on it. That way, there technically would not be a standalone roll call vote on adopting the budget before the House votes to send the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the Senate.
“It is unfortunate in my view that we have to have a discussion about process, when we want to have a discussion of policy,” Pelosi told her colleagues, according to a source in the room.
“Right now we have an opportunity to pass something so substantial for our country, so transformative we haven’t seen anything like it. … We cannot squander this majority and this Democratic White House by not passing what we need to do.”
House Democrats can only afford three defections on any vote if all Republicans are united in opposition.
Pelosi has stated for months that the House would not vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was negotiated by the Senate and White House, until the larger, Democratic-only $3.5 trillion spending plan is also completed.
Pelosi has sided with liberals in the House, who make up a large majority of her caucus, in demanding that the lower chamber secures its priorities in the $3.5 trillion package before taking action on the infrastructure bill.
But the group of moderates, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), announced shortly after the Senate passed the bipartisan bill earlier this month that they wanted a win on that measure sooner rather than later.
“Time kills deals,” nine centrist Democrats warned in a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday night.
The group later gained a member on Monday, with Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, announcing in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed of her own that she “cannot in good conscience vote to start the reconciliation process unless we also finish our work on the infrastructure bill.”
The House was initially scheduled to be in recess throughout August, but Democratic leaders hauled members back this week for what is expected to be a two-day session to adopt the budget resolution so that committees can get to work writing the $3.5 trillion spending legislation.
While the House is in session, Democrats will also take up a bill named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) that would restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act so that localities with histories of voter suppression have to obtain clearance from the Justice Department before making changes to voting laws. That bill is expected to pass easily with widespread support among Democrats.