Five lawmakers to watch ahead of key House budget vote

The House is set to return to Washington this week to take up the Senate-approved budget resolution, and divisions among Democrats are posing a challenge to quick passage.

Adoption of the budget resolution would pave the way for Democrats to pass a $3.5 trillion package later this year without any Republican votes. The broader bill, which has yet to be crafted, is expected to include spending in areas such as education, child care, health care and climate to advance much of President Biden’s agenda.

But a group of nine moderate House Democrats has threatened to vote against the budget resolution unless the chamber first votes on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate passed earlier this month. Democratic leadership and progressives have said they want to hold off on passing the infrastructure measure until after the Senate passes the $3.5 trillion spending bill.

No Republicans are expected to vote for the budget resolution, and Democrats have a slim majority in the House, leaving little room for error.

Here are five key lawmakers to watch as the House considers the budget resolution.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Pelosi has been firm in her stance that the House must vote on the budget resolution before the infrastructure bill. In recent days, she and other members of Democratic leadership have repeatedly emphasized their position to rank-and-file lawmakers in the caucus.

The Speaker views the $3.5 trillion spending bill that would be facilitated by the budget resolution as a key opportunity to enact many of Democrats’ top priorities, including an extension of the expanded child tax credit and universal pre-K.

“Any delay in passing the budget resolution could threaten our ability to pass this essential legislation through reconciliation,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues last week.

Pelosi has also argued that quick passage of the budget resolution will allow the House to have more influence over the process of drafting the Democratic-only spending package. The bipartisan infrastructure bill, by contrast, was primarily crafted by a group of senators.

In an effort to try to get some moderates on board with her approach, Pelosi has called for the House to vote this week on a rule that advances the budget resolution, the infrastructure package and a voting rights bill, though a vote on final passage of the infrastructure measure would not happen until later. Pelosi has been highlighting Biden’s support for the rule, but the proposal did not immediately satisfy the nine lawmakers who want a prompt vote on infrastructure.

In a letter to colleagues on Saturday, Pelosi said she wants both the infrastructure bill and the Democratic-only bill enacted by Oct. 1.

While Pelosi is a skilled politician who has successfully secured the votes for key agenda items in the past, it remains to be seen whether she will be able to get enough moderates to vote for the budget resolution without a prior vote on the infrastructure bill.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.)

Gottheimer has been the leader of the group of moderates pushing for an immediate infrastructure vote.

The New Jersey Democrat, who is co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, argues that a prompt vote on the infrastructure bill would demonstrate that Congress is capable of addressing the nation’s challenges on a bipartisan basis.

An infrastructure vote would “show the great momentum that the country needs, that we could actually govern together,” Gottheimer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week.

Gottheimer has also been touting support from business and labor groups for the infrastructure bill.

But it will be a heavy lift for Gottheimer to persuade leadership to schedule a vote on passage of the infrastructure bill this week.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)

Jayapal is chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), which strongly supports voting on the budget resolution before the infrastructure bill.

The CPC said earlier this month that after surveying all 96 members, a majority said they would commit to withholding a “yes” vote on the infrastructure bill until after the Senate has passed the Democratic-only spending bill.

Jayapal and other progressives view the $1 trillion infrastructure package as narrow in scope compared to the eventual $3.5 trillion measure. They want Congress to address a number of priorities that the budget resolution is designed to facilitate, including funding to address climate change, an expansion of Medicare, investments in affordable housing and a pathway to citizenship for millions of people.

“The American people delivered us the House, Senate, and White House not only to improve roads and bridges but to improve their daily lives, too,” Jayapal said in a statement following the Senate adoption of the budget resolution. “We can do that by using this governing moment to ensure that President Biden’s complete agenda is realized.”

If Democratic leaders were to grant moderates an immediate vote on the infrastructure bill, they would risk angering progressives and losing many of their votes on the bipartisan measure, which would gain support from some House Republicans.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)

DeFazio, who’s chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has criticized the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, arguing it does not do nearly enough to combat climate change. He is now hoping to get his climate priorities included in the Democratic-only package.

In a letter to colleagues last week, DeFazio urged them to promptly pass the budget resolution in order to ensure House members have more involvement in drafting the Democratic-only spending bill.

“Giving the House a voice requires all members of the House Democratic Caucus to work together and take the first step — enacting a budget resolution so that we can put forth a House reconciliation bill that elevates House priorities,” DeFazio wrote.

DeFazio’s committee is one of several House panels that will be involved in crafting the $3.5 trillion measure. He, other chairs of relevant committees and House Democratic leaders participated in a virtual meeting with Biden on Thursday to discuss the eventual legislation.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)

If Democratic leaders want to achieve their goal of passing the budget resolution this week and waiting to pass the infrastructure bill, they will need to get some of the nine moderates who have threatened to vote against the budget resolution to ultimately vote for the measure.

One lawmaker to watch as Pelosi tries to secure votes is Cuellar, a Texas Democrat who is among the more moderate House Democrats but is also close with Pelosi. He faces a primary challenge next year from Jessica Cisneros, a progressive who lost to him in the 2020 Democratic primary by just over 3 percentage points.

In addition to Gottheimer and Cuellar, the other moderate Democrats who have been pressing for a vote on the infrastructure bill before a vote on the budget resolution are Reps. Filemon Vela (Texas), Ed Case (Hawaii), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Carolyn Bourdeaux (Ga.), Jared Golden (Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas) and Jim Costa (Calif.). 

The nine moderate Democrats issued a press release Friday in which each of them provided statements reiterating their support for a prompt vote on the infrastructure bill.

“It is only rational that we move this bill forward now,” Cuellar said in his statement. “Americans are ready to get back to work and we must seize this historic opportunity to pass a once in a generation infrastructure legislation—a rare example of broad-based bipartisan, bicameral support.”

Tags budget resolution Ed Case Filemon Vela Infrastructure Jim Costa Joe Biden Josh Gottheimer Kurt Schrader moderate Democrats Nancy Pelosi Peter DeFazio Pramila Jayapal

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