House

Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote

House Democratic leaders are racing ahead with their plans to vote Monday on a bipartisan infrastructure package, brushing aside threats of opposition from both Republicans and liberals in their own caucus in a bid to fulfill a big chunk of President Biden's domestic agenda.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had promised moderate Democrats that the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, passed by the Senate last month, would hit the House floor on Sept. 27. And despite growing signs that the bill is headed for defeat, the Speaker said Wednesday that the timeline remains intact.

"We're on schedule," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol, shortly after meeting with Biden at the White House to discuss the party's strategy. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is also on board, saying Democratic leaders "have an obligation" to bring the vote on Monday "because we got a unanimous vote for the rule." He was referring to a vote last month, forced by the Democratic moderates, that set the parameters for the House infrastructure debate.

"That's what we were trying to do, and we got that done," Hoyer said. "And I think we need to do what we said we'd do."

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has widespread support in both parties, sailing through the Senate by a vote of 69 to 30. But it's been caught up in the broader debate over Biden's economic agenda, which also includes a second proposal - a massive $3.5 trillion social benefits package - that's much more controversial.

A number of liberals, distrustful of the centrists' commitment to the larger social spending bill, are demanding that the $3.5 trillion package be passed before they'll support the more popular infrastructure plan. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the influential Progressive Caucus, has said there are almost 50 members of the group prepared to oppose the public works bill to keep the pressure on the moderates to back the "family" package.

Republicans, meanwhile, oppose the $3.5 trillion package unanimously, and they're lining up to oppose the bipartisan infrastructure proposal - not because they reject the policy, but to curb any momentum behind the larger bill. Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the Republican whip, announced Wednesday that they're encouraging GOP lawmakers to vote no.

"There is no question that Republicans vehemently oppose the reckless policies included in the reconciliation bill and Speaker Pelosi's legislative strategy solidifies that a vote for the infrastructure bill paves the way for passage of reconciliation," reads the notice from Scalise's office. "Republicans should not aid in this destructive process."

A handful of Republicans have said they'll buck their leadership's request and support the infrastructure bill, including Reps. Tom Reed (N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Fred Upton (Ill.). But the number of GOP yes votes is expected to fall far short of compensating for the disgruntled liberals who are vowing to vote no.

"I don't understand why some of our colleagues are so in love with the date Sept. 27. But if they are unmoving and attached to that date, yeah, we'll have to vote it down," said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.). 

Huffman noted that defeating the infrastructure bill on Monday would hardly kill the overall effort, since Pelosi could simply bring it to the floor later in the year, after a Democratic deal is finalized on the social spending package.

The vowed opposition hasn't altered leadership's plans. Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the Democrats' No. 3 leader who runs his party's vote-counting effort, said he, too, backs a vote next week.

"I support it being held on Monday," Clyburn told The Hill.

Party leaders have declined to say what they'll do in the event the infrastructure bill fails. 

"We'll see what happens over the next five days," Hoyer said.

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