Liberals, moderates strike deal on Biden agenda, clearing 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 (CBO) score of the bill is in line with White House estimates. The statement would be backed by Biden. 

The detente came after Biden called into an hours-long meeting of House progressives, desperately seeking a way to break the ugly, intraparty stalemate and urging rank-and-file lawmakers to vote for the infrastructure package Friday night. 

“The whole day was a clusterf—, right? But beyond that, you know … I thought everyone was working in a very congenial way,” one of the Progressive Caucus leaders, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), said after a fruitful closed-door meeting with moderate negotiators.  

“I mean, rank-and-file members figured out how to get shit done.” 

When it became clear Friday morning that Democrats lacked the votes to move forward with their original plan to pass both bills because of reluctance from moderates, Black Caucus leaders floated the idea of instead voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a procedural rule for the social spending package.

Progressives balked at the proposal and held firm to their insistence that the two bills should pass together. But as the night went on, they began hashing out a compromise with their moderate counterparts.

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), the Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman, waited outside the private progressives’ meeting for more than an hour before she was granted entry.

As she left the meeting, Beatty expressed optimism that they were “landing the plane.”

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.” 

Some progressives have been wary of trusting their moderate counterparts who balked at the original plan of passing both bills earlier Friday because the CBO has yet to conduct a full analysis of the social spending package. 

“We’re trying to get to yes,” Huffman said. “Of course, we began the day at yes. And then the goalposts moved rather dramatically.”

Biden eventually issued a statement around 9 p.m., shortly before the House was expected to begin votes, “urging all members” to back the two measures. He also expressed confidence that a vote on passage of the social spending package would come the week of Nov. 15, which is both when the House is scheduled to return from a weeklong recess and when the CBO may be able to provide more analysis.

“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,” Biden said. “I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act.”

Tags Jared Huffman Joe Biden Joyce Beatty Mark Pocan

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