Pelosi frames deal with centrists on infrastructure as a ‘clarification’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) answers questions on Afghanistan, the budget and the infrastructure bill during her weekly press conference on Wednesday, August 25, 2021.
Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday downplayed a deal struck this week with a group of centrist Democrats to move forward on plans to advance President Biden’s infrastructure and spending plans as a “clarification” on the time frame.

Pelosi said that there would have been a need to take up the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill next month anyway because some surface transportation programs are expiring on Sept. 30.

“It’s a clarification,” Pelosi said of the agreement she reached on Tuesday to commit to taking up the bipartisan infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 in exchange for the centrists backing a $3.5 trillion budget plan to expand social safety net programs.

“So, we’re talking about a couple of days earlier,” Pelosi said.

Ten centrist Democrats had threatened to vote against a $3.5 trillion budget resolution if the House didn’t first vote to send the bipartisan infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk. They ultimately backed a procedural rule on Tuesday to adopt the budget resolution after securing language stating that the House “shall consider” the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sept. 27 if it isn’t voted upon before then.

Both the centrist and progressive factions sought to frame the agreement as a victory for their respective goals.

The group of centrists, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), touted the agreement with Pelosi as a victory for their push to keep consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion spending plan “fully delinked.”

“With roads and bridges crumbling across our nation, this agreement does what we set out to do: secure a standalone vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, send it to the president’s desk, and then separately consider the reconciliation package,” the centrists said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

But progressives maintained that they have no intention of letting the bipartisan infrastructure bill pass if their priorities aren’t first addressed in the larger reconciliation package.

“Our position remains unchanged: we will work to first pass the Build Back Better reconciliation bill so we can deliver these once-in-a-generation, popular, and urgently needed investments to poor and working families, and then pass the infrastructure bill to invest in our roads, bridges, and waterways,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus chair, said in a statement.

Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process so they can circumvent a GOP filibuster and enact Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda to expand social safety net programs, such as establishing a national paid family leave policy, universal pre-K education, free community college, adding dental, vision and hearing benefits to Medicare and investments in combating climate change.

Some centrists have called for scaling back the size of the Democratic-only spending plan to invest in social benefits programs, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a key Senate moderate who led the negotiations on the bipartisan infrastructure package.

“There are those who’d like to see the reconciliation [bill] be smaller, and some of that from the outside had an impact on some of the debate,” Pelosi said.

“But I have tremendous respect for all of our members and what their views are and what they bring to the table. And at the end of the day, what had to prevail was the president’s vision and the needs of America’s working families and they saw that,” she said.

Tags Budget budget reconciliation Infrastructure Joe Biden Josh Gottheimer Kyrsten Sinema Nancy Pelosi Pramila Jayapal Progressive caucus
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