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Pelosi, moderates inch closer to infrastructure, budget deal

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told rank-and-file Democrats in a private meeting Tuesday that she is inching closer to a deal with a band of centrist rebels who have threatened to tank President Biden’s domestic agenda over disagreements about leadership’s strategy for how to pass trillions in federal spending.

“I’m sorry that we couldn’t land the plane last night, and that you all had to wait. But that’s just part of the legislative process,” Pelosi told colleagues in their weekly caucus meeting, a reference to the hours of delays late Monday as lawmakers waited for a procedural vote to advance Biden’s agenda.

“I think we’re close to landing the plane,” Pelosi added.

After the hour-and-a-half-long closed-door meeting, Pelosi told reporters: “When we bring up the bill, we will have the votes.”

The emerging agreement began to shape late Monday and Tuesday morning. It would extend an olive branch to the recalcitrant moderates led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) by guaranteeing that the House will take up the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure package by a Sept. 27 deadline and send it to Biden’s desk.

Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), a close ally of Pelosi’s, introduced legislation late Monday night that states the House would commit to bringing the infrastructure bill to the floor by Sept. 28, though sources said that deadline has now been moved up by one day.

By Tuesday morning, Gottheimer’s group of 10 centrist Democrats appeared to be moving toward signing off on the deal. They expressed concerns to Pelosi that the Sept. 27 resolution was not binding and leadership agreed to make the language more forceful.

“Incredibly close” to a deal, Gottheimer said emerging from Pelosi’s office. “Inches, inches.”

The latest tweak will revise the rule from including a sense of Congress that the House commits to voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 to stating that the chamber “shall consider” it by that date, according to a Democratic leadership aide. 

Gottheimer’s group grew from nine to 10 on Monday with the addition of Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a co-chair of the  Blue Dog Coalition. The bloc of centrists had been demanding that the House quickly pass the infrastructure bill now to guarantee a big, bipartisan legislative victory for Biden, before the House begins work on a larger $3.5 trillion package that would fund a slew of social benefits programs.

But until now, Pelosi and progressive leaders have stood firm and said they won’t support the infrastructure bill until they secure a victory on the massive $3.5 trillion package. Guaranteeing an infrastructure vote in the House by Sept. 27 would represent a serious concession to the moderates.

In addition to Gottheimer and Murphy, the other centrist rebels are: Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux (Ga.); Jared Golden (Maine); Ed Case (Hawaii); Jim Costa (Calif.); Kurt Schrader (Ore.); and Filemon Vela, Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, all of Texas. 

Cuellar and Costa, also expressed optimism that the latest change to the rule making a firmer commitment to the date would be satisfactory.

“I think there were some folks that wanted a little bit more assurance on that vote on the 27th,” Cuellar said. “I think we’ll be fine.”

If the band of moderates — or enough of them — agree to get on board the new Pelosi plan, the House will hold a procedural vote Tuesday afternoon to move forward on three pieces of Biden’s domestic agenda: a voting rights bill named for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.); the infrastructure package; and the $3.5 trillion budget framework.

The vote on the combined rule would “deem” the budget as passed once the House passes the rule itself, meaning squeamish moderates would not need to take a separate, standalone vote on the $3.5 trillion budget later Tuesday.

Given Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House, Pelosi can only afford to lose three Democrats on any given vote. So the Speaker, who considers herself a “master legislator” and vote counter, will need to win over a majority of the 10 holdouts in order to secure a victory for her party.

“These negotiations are never easy. I think it was Hillary Clinton who says, ‘It takes a village.’ I say, ‘It takes a therapist,’” Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told his colleagues in a Rules meeting on Tuesday. 

“But the therapy session is done … It is my hope that my colleagues recognize the fundamental choice before us whether to advance the president’s agenda or to obstruct it.”

This story was updated at 11:58 a.m.

Tags Budget reconciliation. Budget Ed Case Filemon Vela Hillary Clinton Infrastructure Jim Costa Joe Biden John Lewis Josh Gottheimer Katherine Clark Kurt Schrader Nancy Pelosi Stephanie Murphy
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