House

Pelosi sets Rules meeting on Biden agenda; no infrastructure vote in sight

The House Rules Committee will discuss portions of President Biden's massive social spending package on Thursday, the same day the president is set to head to Europe for a high-stakes global climate summit, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday afternoon.

Yet there remains no agreement on key elements of the nascent legislation, let alone a final legislative text, as liberals and moderates continue to joust over the enormous package's size and scope and how to pay for it.

Given the remaining hurdles, the Rules Committee, which typically marks up legislation as the last step before it hits the floor for a vote, is conducting a rare "hearing" instead - a signal that Democratic leaders want to project appearances of major progress in the negotiations without having a final product to unveil.

"We are close to agreement on the priorities and the topline of the legislation, which can and must pass the House and Senate," Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats.

An agreement on the social benefits package is crucial to the success of another piece of Biden's domestic agenda: a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that has already passed through the Senate and is awaiting a House vote. Liberals in the lower chamber have blocked that proposal to pressure their moderate colleagues to get behind the larger - but less popular - social benefits package, which is opposed by every Republican in both the House and Senate.

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have sought to break through that liberal resistance and stage an infrastructure vote this week by securing a "framework" agreement on the larger package. That would lend Biden a victory before he heads overseas, where he could tout specific steps the United States is taking to combat global warming.

In Wednesday's letter, Pelosi urged her members to put some "trust" in their fellow colleagues for the sake of expediency.

"We are facing a crucial deadline for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework to pass. To do so, we must have trust and confidence in an agreement for the Build Back Better Act," she wrote.

But the progressives have remained steadfast in their opposition to such a vague proposition. Behind Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, they're insisting on not only a framework agreement on the "family" benefits plan but also legislative text and votes on the floor before they'll back the bipartisan infrastructure bill, known as the BIF.

Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said roughly 40 members of the group met Tuesday night to discuss their strategy and came away with the same commitment to hold the line on infrastructure in order to assure they get the best hand out of the social benefits package.

"Unless there is some kind of real agreement, text, something, people are not going to vote for the BIF," Gomez said.

Still, party leaders are leaving open the possibility that they'll achieve a breakthrough over the next 24 hours, before Biden gets on a plane.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules Committee, said an infrastructure vote this week is "still a possibility." He met with Pelosi on Wednesday morning and said afterward that the Speaker "thinks we're moving."

And Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) delivered a similar message, saying there will "possibly" be an infrastructure vote Thursday. Hoyer also suggested Biden might visit the Capitol on Thursday to nudge reluctant lawmakers behind the bill.

Al Weaver contributed.

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