Democrats unite to send infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk
The House held a marathon session on Friday in an effort to pass President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending and climate package, which has been stuck in a battle within the party between liberals and centrists fighting over its size and shape.
The internal battles, which also gridlocked a bipartisan infrastructure bill already approved by the Senate, have been blamed for pulling down Biden’s approval ratings and for a dismal showing by the party in Tuesday’s off-year elections, when Democrats lost the governor’s race in Virginia — where Biden won by 10 points just a year ago.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed for the House to pass both the spending package and the infrastructure bill on Friday, with the House ultimately voting to send the latter to the White House for Biden’s signature. Democrats separately passed a rule that will govern debate on the spending package when it comes to the floor. That legislation would also need to go to Senate.
Here’s the latest on efforts to advance Biden’s agenda:
Democrats pass rule to advance Biden’s social benefits bill
It didn’t happen as quickly as they’d planned, but Democrats voted in the earliest hours of Saturday to approve a procedural measure bringing them a step closer to passing Biden’s Build Back Better Act.
The vote on the rule, which will govern debate of the legislation when it eventually reaches the floor, proceeded as expected: 221 to 213, along strict party lines.
While every Democrat voted for the measure, that unanimity was thrown into doubt earlier in the day when a group of moderate lawmakers threatened to oppose the rule unless the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed on the House floor. Liberals had threatened to sink the infrastructure proposal to protest the exclusion of a vote on the social spending package the same day, sparking a showdown between the feuding factions, with party leaders caught in the middle seeking a truce.
Both sides abandoned their ultimatums when liberals won a written commitment from the moderates to support the Build Back Better Act, and subsequently dropped their opposition to the infrastructure piece, allowing it to pass late Friday night.
Negotiators are still drafting the final language of the social spending bill, which will then receive a cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It is expected to reach the floor the week of Nov. 15.
— Mike Lillis
Biden lauds passage of infrastructure bill
President Biden lauded the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill as “a monumental step forward as a nation.”
“It will create good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. Jobs that will transform our transportation system with the most significant investments in passenger and freight rail, roads, bridges, ports, airports, and public transit in generations,” he said in a statement. “This will make it easier for companies to get goods to market more quickly and reduce supply chain bottlenecks now and for decades to come. This will ease inflationary pressures and lower costs for working families.”
He also said applauded the House for advancing the other piece of his agenda, a $1.75 trillion social and climate spending plan, indicating the House could pass that bill the week of Nov. 15.
“I look forward to signing both of these bills into law. Generations from now, people will look back and know this is when America won the economic competition for the 21st Century,” he said.
— Regina Zilbermintns
House passes infrastructure bill, sending it to Biden’s desk
House Democrats late Friday night clinched a long-sought victory on President Biden’s domestic agenda, passing a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill — while preparing to advance an even larger social spending package — after months of stubborn infighting that’s bedeviled the party and helped deflate Biden’s public standing.
The vote came after progressives caved on a key demand they’d maintained for months: their insistence that the climate and social spending package be passed on the same day as the more popular infrastructure proposal.
The tally on the infrastructure bill was 228-206, with 13 Republicans crossing the aisle to support the measure, and six progressive Democrats bucking Biden and party leaders to register their opposition to a process that left the fate of the larger bill up in the air.
— Cristina Marcos, Scott Wong, Mike Lillis and Aris Folley
Moderates, progressives back deal paving the way for votes
House moderates and progressives issued statements indicating their support for a deal to advance the social-spending bill and the infrastructure bill, paving the way for votes late Friday.
The statements allow the House to move forward with a vote on the infrastructure bill as well as a procedural vote on the social-spending bill.
Five moderate House Democrats committed to voting for the spending bill “as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office – but in no event later than the week of November 15th.”
The lawmakers — Democratic Reps. Ed Case (Hawaii), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) — said that if the CBO score was not consistent with White House estimates, they would work to resolve any issues in order to pass the spending bill.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a separate statement that progressives would vote for the infrastructure bill as a result of the moderates’ commitment to vote for the social-spending bill later this month. Progressives had previously wanted to vote on both bills at the same time.
“As part of this agreement, at the request of the President, and to ensure we pass both bills through the House, progressives will advance the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the House rule on Build Back Better tonight,” Jayapal said.
— Naomi Jagoda
Biden making calls as lawmakers work toward vote
President Biden, Vice President Harris and top staffers were huddled in the White House on Friday evening making calls to House members as lawmakers sorted through a path forward on his agenda.
“The President is in the residence with his policy and legislative teams making calls and staying in close touch with leadership and members,” a White House official said.
The president postponed plans to travel to Rehoboth, Del., for the weekend.
— Morgan Chalfant
Democrats strike deal, clearing the way for votes
Warring progressive and moderate House Democrats agreed to a cease-fire on Friday night, clearing the way for votes on key pieces of President Biden’s stalled domestic agenda after a day of chaos and confusion on Capitol Hill.
The eleventh-hour deal between the Congressional Progressive Caucus, moderate Blue Dog Democrats and Congressional Black Caucus would allow the House to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and send it to Biden’s desk, as well as pass a rule setting up a future vote on Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package.
The three-way agreement calls for a written commitment that moderates will vote for Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package if the Congressional Budget Office score of the bill is in line with White House estimates. The statement would be backed by Biden.
— Mike Lillis, Aris Folley, Cristina Marcos and Scott Wong
Biden says he’s confident House will pass larger spending bill week of Nov. 15
President Biden issued a statement late Friday saying he is confident that the House will pass the spending bill during the week of Nov. 15.
The statement is meant to help pave the way for a House vote tonight on the rule for that bill, and a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that had been held up.
“I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill tonight,” the president said in a statement.
The Build Back Better Act is the name of the social spending bill.
“I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act,” Biden said.
— Naomi Jagoda
Progressives discussing written commitment from moderates to move forward
President Biden called into an hours-long meeting of House progressives to discuss a way to break Friday’s stalemate, potentially in the form of a written statement offering commitments from the moderate holdouts to back the social spending package.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) confirmed that Biden was urging progressives to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the procedural rule for the social spending package, “subject to some assurances and commitments that he was working to get.”
“We’re trying to get to yes,” Huffman said. “Of course, we began the day at yes. And then the goalposts moved rather dramatically.”
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), another progressive, expressed optimism about the discussions as he left the meeting.
“I think things are going really, really well,” Pocan told reporters.
— Mike Lillis and Cristina Marcos
The White House announced late Friday that President Biden and first lady Jill Biden would not travel to Rehoboth, Del., as planned.
The two were expected to depart sometime this evening for the weekend.
Biden has been in touch with House lawmakers during the day but has not made public comments since Friday morning, when he urged lawmakers to vote on both bills.
— Morgan Chalfant
CBC chair left waiting outside Progressive Caucus meeting
In an awkward development in the marathon debate, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), arrived outside the meeting of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — and they haven’t let her in.
Beatty, who’s joined Pelosi in pushing for a stand-alone infrastructure vote, said neither the Speaker nor President Biden, with whom she spoke earlier in the day, asked her to visit the progressives in an effort to change minds.
“I asked if I could come here,” she said.
Beatty said Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) had come to her in the morning, and together they arrived at the plan to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the rule for the social spending package — the same strategy the progressives are now revolting against.
She acknowledged that it might not have been the best strategy, but said it was way to get the ball rolling after weeks of stalemate.
Beatty said it’s unclear if there will be a vote Friday on either bill. But she predicted Pelosi won’t bring anything to the floor without the votes to pass it.
“If we call for a vote on infrastructure then it will pass, she said.
Asked if they were going to let her in, Beatty said only, “I guess I’ll know when they come to the door.”
At one point, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a member of both the Black and Progressive caucuses, left the meeting, came into the hallway and gave Beatty a hug.
Then Omar went back inside.
— Mike Lillis
Dem leaders say they’ll go forward with vote on infrastructure bill
Democratic leaders in the House say they are moving forward with a vote Friday on the bipartisan infrastructure measure, despite opposition from progressives who say it should not get a vote until the House is also ready to vote on a separate, broader social spending and climate measure.
Asked about the statement of opposition from progressives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said “the fact is we believe it is necessary to pass” the bipartisan infrastructure framework so that jobs she said it would create can come online immediately.
“I do believe there are a large number of members of the progressive caucus who will vote for the bill,” Pelosi said.
“I have Speaker’s secret whip count,” she added after noting the whip count by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). “I have a pretty good feel.”
— Ian Swanson
Progressives reject Pelosi plan for infrastructure vote without larger package
The head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus quickly shut down Pelosi’s plan to vote Friday on an infrastructure bill without also passing the larger social benefits package that Biden has sought for months.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said liberals are holding form to their insistence that both bills move together — a strategy they believe gives them the greatest leverage in negotiations with centrist Democrats in the Senate.
“As we’ve consistently said, there are dozens of our members who want to vote both bills — the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — out of the House together,” she said.
It’s also a warning shot to Pelosi, who just moments earlier had announced a plan to vote Friday afternoon on the infrastructure bill and the rule on the larger benefits package — but not that package itself.
It’s also a warning shot to the moderates who have blocked a Friday vote on the larger social benefits bill to protest the absence of an official cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
By Friday afternoon, after hours of long negotiations in Pelosi’s office in the Capitol, the number of moderate holdouts remained significant enough to prevent the Build Back Better Act from passing.
Jayapal said she’s happy to wait for the CBO to provide its estimate, but won’t budge on infrastructure beforehand.
“A full accounting of the spending and revenue has been provided by the White House, numerous pieces of the legislation have already been scored, and the JCT has put out analysis that Build Back Better will contribute to reducing the deficit,” Jayapal said.
House Democrats move forward with new plan
After holding open a vote on a GOP motion to adjourn since shortly after 8 a.m., the House is expected to start an hour of debate on the procedural rule for the social spending package at 3:15 p.m.
Then, according to a notice from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office, the House is slated to vote on passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and adoption of the rule.
Passage of the social spending package would come at another time, due to ongoing resistance from about half a dozen moderates who are demanding a full analysis of the bill’s fiscal impact from the Congressional Budget Office before voting on it.
“In order to make progress on the President’s vision it is important that we advance the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and the Build Back Better Act today,” Pelosi wrote in a “dear colleague” letter to Democrats announcing the plan.
Democrats discuss alternative voting plan
House Democrats are discussing the possibility of voting Friday on passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and adoption of a procedural rule for the social spending package.
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) leaders outlined the potential plan after they emerged from a meeting in Pelosi’s office.
Voting on those two measures, even if it falls short of passing both bills, would offer Democrats a way to show progress after yet another day of uncertainty and gridlock amid reluctance from a handful of moderates to vote on the social spending package without a full analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.
“We’re gonna go and vote on the bipartisan infrastructure [bill], and we’re gonna vote then on the rule,” said CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio).
But it’s not yet clear if the idea — which would postpone passage of the social spending package to an undetermined date — will fly with progressives.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) dismissed the idea that progressives would endorse a strategy that more explicitly decoupled the bipartisan infrastructure bill from the social spending package.
“No, you should be very surprised if that happens. Because it’s not going to happen,” Huffman tweeted.
No, you should be very surprised if that happens. Because it’s not going to happen. https://t.co/LqEmznrtlT
— Rep. Jared Huffman (@JaredHuffman) November 5, 2021
—Cristina Marcos and Aris Folley
Georgia moderate joins Build Back Better backers
One of moderate holdouts identified earlier by a Democratic leadership aide, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.), said she is now a “yes” on President Biden’s Build Back Better bill.
“There are a lot of rumors swirling. Let me be clear—this bill is paid for and it has a number of my priorities in it, Bordeaux said in a tweet. “If it comes to the Floor today—I will support the Build Back Better Act.”
There are a lot of rumors swirling. Let me be clear—this bill is paid for and it has a number of my priorities in it. If it comes to the Floor today—I will support the Build Back Better Act.
— Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (@RepBourdeaux) November 5, 2021
Other moderate Democratic holdouts include Reps. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Ed Case (Hawaii), Jared Golden (Maine) and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.).
Scalise criticizes tax credit for local news
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Friday criticized a provision in House Democrats’ social spending bill to provide a payroll tax credit to local news outlets, as Democrats struggled to secure the votes to pass the broader package.
Scalise took issue with the provision in a tweet, highlighting an estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation that it would cost $1.67 billion over the next decade.
“What a scam,” Scalise said.
McCarthy says infrastructure vote won’t help Republicans in 2022
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned Friday that House Republicans who vote in favor of the Senate-passed infrastructure package would have a tough time campaigning on the issue in the 2022 midterms.
He and his leadership team are aggressively whipping their members to vote against the $1.2 trillion roads, bridges, ports and broadband bill because Democrats are planning to move it to the floor along with President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package, which all Republicans oppose.
“I think it’d be very difficult for a Republican to campaign on [infrastructure] because it’s viewed as one bill,” McCarthy told reporters at his weekly news conference. “It’s what the Democrats are doing; if they bring it up today, they’d bring it up as one bill.”
Nineteen Republicans joined all Democrats in the Senate to pass the infrastructure package back in August. But most House Republicans balked at the bill once progressive Democrats demanded they be linked together.
A GOP lawmaker predicted that roughly 10 to 12 Republicans could still vote “yes” on the infrastructure measure, even amid warnings from leadership.
— Scott Wong
House holds longest vote in modern history as Democrats struggle for unity
The House is currently holding what has become the chamber’s longest vote in modern history, as Democrats struggle to pass their sweeping social spending bill.
A vote on a motion to adjourn was offered by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), shortly after 8 a.m., meaning the vote has been held open for roughly four hours so far.
Usually, individual roll-call votes in the House don’t last for more than an hour.
A congressional aide confirmed to The Hill on Friday afternoon that it’s the longest chamber vote in modern history.
Previously, the longest vote was held for nearly three hours in 2003.
The hold-up comes as Democrats struggle to unite on passing the spending plan amid pushback from centrist lawmakers who are demanding a full Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill.
Leaders have said it will take days for the report to be released.
Shortly before noon, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) requested that the vote on the motion to adjourn be called but was rebuffed by Democrats.
“Anyone who is up watching C-SPAN at this hour wonders what in the heck the House is doing right now,” Burgess said.
The previous longest vote took place in 2003 when a GOP-majority House considered a vote on Medicare Part D.
— Aris Folley and Cristina Marcos
Moderate says Democrats facing ‘dicey situation’
As Pelosi races to win over the holdout centrists Friday morning, Democrats are quickly growing pessimistic about the likelihood that it will happen today.
“It’s not looking good,” said a source familiar with the talks.
Party leaders have largely resolved the outstanding policy issues that have prevented a deal, after ironing out last-minute wrinkles on immigration and taxes.
But at least one final hurdle remains: there’s no cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and a handful of centrist budget hawks are demanding that they have one before they’ll support the legislation.
That could be awhile. The source said the CBO is understaffed, and would likely need two weeks to complete its score once the legislative language is finalized, pushing the process close to Thanksgiving.
There are at least five holdouts, according to the Democratic source: Reps. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Jared Golden (Maine), Ed Case (Hawaii), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.).
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a moderate Blue Dog, is also voicing skepticism.
“It’s a dicey situation right now,” Schrader said as he emerged from the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Asked if the votes will be today, he was enigmatic.
“We’ll find out very shortly,” Schrader said.
Separately, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), head of the Rules Committee, acknowledged the “hiccups” Democrats are experiencing at the eleventh hour. But he’s also pressing for party leaders to keep pushing until they flip the reluctant Democrats.
“I want to stay here until it comes to the floor,” he said.
— Mike Lillis
The demands from a handful of centrist lawmakers for a full Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the social spending package are jeopardizing House Democratic leaders’ plans to hold a vote Friday on the legislation.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that a CBO score on the bill — which spans more than 2,000 pages — would not be ready on Friday.
“We’re working on it,” Hoyer said of the vote count.
House Democrats can only afford up to three defections and still pass legislation on their own without any support from Republicans.
— Cristina Marcos
Jayapal says it’s worth passing spending plan even if Democrats lose House
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said on Friday that it’s worth Democrats passing the party’s sweeping social spending bill even if they lose the House in next year’s midterm elections.
Jayapal was asked by reporters ahead of an expected vote on the legislation early Friday if it’s worth the party passing the bill if there is a chance Republicans take back the House amid blowback.
A similar turn of events occurred in 2010 after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
“Of course it’s worth it if we’re making people’s lives better,” Jayapal said.
“What’s the alternative? To do nothing. I mean, that’s not gonna get us anywhere … part of what we have to do is really understand the economic frustration that people have right now. And I think that is really important for us.”
She also pushed back on labeling the sweeping spending package “a messaging bill,” arguing there is agreement among members over a bulk of the proposals in the legislation.
“It’s not. Ninety-eight percent of this bill has been pre-conferenced. Ninety-eight percent of this was agreed to in a framework that President Biden put out [that] now has been translated into legislative text,” she said.
She acknowledged that the remaining “2 percent” would cover a proposal for a national paid family and medical leave program, which Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has opposed.
“I submit that paid leave has not been agreed to. So, that’s going to be something that has to be worked out and anything that’s parliamentary,” she said. “But the idea that this is just a bill that has everything thrown in is not true.”
— Aris Folley
Ocasio-Cortez criticizes moderates for withholding votes over CBO score
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) criticized centrist Democrats for “threatening to tank the bill over the CBO score.”
The progressive lawmaker’s comments came as a group of moderate Democrats met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Ocasio-Cortez argued that moderates’ arguments about waiting for a full analysis from the Congressional Budget Office wasn’t the most politically salient message compared to progressives who previously resisted moving forward for weeks to secure policy priorities in the social spending package.
“I feel like there’s a difference between progressives holding out and us going back to our communities and saying we’re doing this for child care, immigration, universal pre-K, health care extension. And I think it’s a lot harder to go back to a person’s community and say, ‘Hey, I’m doing this for a CBO score.’ So I think politically, it’s very difficult to justify,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters.
Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), a centrist who represents a district carried by former President Trump, emerged from Pelosi’s office reiterating that there should be a CBO score.
Asked if there will be a vote on Friday, Golden said: “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”
Golden may be a tough get for Democratic leaders on the social spending package anyway. He outlined a variety of concerns with the legislation in a lengthy Medium post on Thursday, including the child tax credit and the state and local tax deduction.
Pelosi huddles with reluctant moderates
As Democratic leaders scramble for the final votes to pass the social spending package, Pelosi is huddling Friday with a group of moderate lawmakers, some of whom remain reluctant to back the legislation.
Some of those moderates have been concerned about the effect of the bill on the national debt, insisting that leaderships waits for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office before staging a vote. Others have simply lost trust in party leaders after Pelosi vowed not to vote on any proposal that couldn’t pass the Senate as-is, only to reverse course this week after the party’s stunning losses in state races Tuesday. Several provisions were added to the social spending bill that are opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Still, Pelosi has rallied almost every member of the caucus — liberal and moderate alike — behind the enormous bill. And some lawmakers leaving Friday’s meeting in Pelosi’s office said they’re fully on board.
“I feel good about the bills that have been drafted,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) told reporters as she headed to the floor.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said the focus of the discussion is on the deficit questions surrounding the bill. “It’s more of a scoring issue right now,” he said, to ensure that lawmakers are “comfortable” voting for so much new spending.
Kind is not among the holdouts, saying he’s already prepared to back the package.
— Mike Lillis and Scott Wong
GOP rep throws first wrench into Democrats’ plan, forces vote to adjourn House
House Republicans wasted no time Friday morning throwing a wrench in the Democrats’ plans to move both the social benefits and infrastructure bills by the afternoon.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), head of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, immediately forced a vote to adjourn the chamber — a motion that’s destined to fail but has delayed the debate on the rule governing the Build Back Better Act, which Democrats had hoped to pass around 9 a.m.
And there are almost certainly more tactics like that one to come.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) previewed the day’s votes in an email blasted out at 8:06 a.m. It advised members that “Republican procedural votes are expected throughout today.”
— Mike Lillis
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