The House Democratic leaders reached a compromise with moderates and lifted President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar budget plan over a crucial hurdle. This ended a dangerous standoff, and put the party’s domestic infrastructure agenda on track.
Tuesday’s 220-212 vote was the first step toward Biden’s $3.5 Trillion rebuilding plan. The narrow result, in spite of the unanimous Republican opposition, indicated the power that a few voices have. However, it also showed the potential for influencing the debate and the challenges ahead, which still threaten to overthrow the president’s agenda.
Biden, speaking from the White House, praised the outcome saying that it was “a step closer towards truly investing in American people.”
Tensions flared over a turbulent 24 hour period that saw the House come to a halt as moderate lawmakers threatened to withhold votes for the $3.5 billion plan. They demanded that the House approve the nearly $1 trillion bipartisan package for other public works projects, which has already passed the Senate.
With the backing of the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi met privately with legislators and leaders to create an on-ramp. Pelosi, in brokering the compromise promised to vote on the bipartisan package by Sept. 27. This was to ensure that lawmakers won’t be left behind. This is in line with Pelosi’s demand that both bills be passed together to better reflect Biden’s priorities. Pelosi set the goal to pass both bills by October 1.
Before the vote, Pelosi informed her colleagues that the legislation would result in a federal investment equal to the New Deal or the Great Society.
She ignored the delays. According to an anonymous aide, she stated that “that’s just part the legislative process”, in reference to a closed-door caucus meeting.
Pelosi stated that, “not only are we building America’s physical infrastructure, but we are also building America’s human infrastructure,” on the House floor.
The stalemate can be resolved by ignoring the sharp divisions between progressive and moderate lawmakers that make up the Democrats’ slim House majority. The drama erupted during what was supposed be a short session, as lawmakers returned to work for several days in August. It also highlighted the party differences that could threaten Biden’s ambitious rebuilding plan.
The Republicans are firmly opposed to the president’s big plans, and argue that Congress should instead be focusing on Afghanistan’s crisis. This leaves the Democratic leaders with just a few votes. This gives any group of legislators leverage that can be used for making or breaking a deal. They are now in a position to do so in the coming weeks as progressives and moderates draft and vote to approve the $3.5 trillion package.
“I believe it’s important for those of us who have moderate Democrats to ensure that our voices are heard,” stated Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), one of the negotiators.
Nine moderate Democrats, challenging their party’s most powerful leaders signed a letter last week voicing their opposition to Biden’s larger infrastructure proposal. They did not consider the smaller public works plan that includes road, transit, and broadband spending, which has been passed by the Senate.
As other moderates raised similar concerns, such as Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a leader in the Blue Dog caucus centrist Democrats, their ranks grew.
The progressives were furious at the moderates and blamed them for possibly jamming Biden’s agenda. It is loaded with hard-fought party goals such as child care, paid leave, Medicare expansion, and green infrastructure spending.
Justice Democrats and other outside groups started running campaign ads. Members of Our Revolution, an organization aligned to Bernie Sanders, protested Tuesday at the New Jersey office Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Gottheimer is a leader in the moderate effort.
Joseph Geevarghese (Executive Director of Our Revolution) stated that “This is an ‘which side do you on’ moment” and promised to “organize like no other to hold Democrats responsible and get this bill through the finish line.”
Biden’s “Build back Better” vision of helping families and fighting climate change is at the core of the budget measure. It is progressives top priority. All of it is largely funded by tax increases on the wealthy and big business.
Already, the House committees are hard at work creating legislation to complete the details of the $3.5 billion package that will be considered later in the fall.
The Progressives wanted to know the Biden budget priorities before agreeing to the smaller Senate package. They were concerned that it would not be enough down-payment for his goals.
The moderates demand the opposite. They insist that Congress send the bipartisan, smaller infrastructure measure, which they co-authored with senators, to Biden as soon as possible so that he can sign it before political winds shift.
The moderates insist that they want to support Biden’s larger package. However, the progressives are skeptical. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Silena (D-Ariz.) are both Senate centrists who have stated that they can’t support a package worth $3.5 trillion.
The moderates tried to get assurances from Pelosi about the Senate version of the larger bill they drafted in the House. This set up a new showdown between the parties’ competing views and their rebuilding priorities.
Gottheimer stated in a statement that “We have created a path forward.”
The compromise arranged Tuesday’s vote to include passage on Tuesday of the budget resolution as well as the commitment for September voting on the bipartisan package. This was called the Rule.
The White House has supported Pelosi’s strategy of leading her party in a carefully planned manner.
Republicans intend to reject the $3.5 trillion effort for big government spending. GOP support for the $1 trillion bipartisan measure, however, is uncertain.
According to the conservative House Freedom Caucus, it opposed both the Biden budget as well as the bipartisan bill.
Republicans attacked Democrats for following their priorities when all they wanted was Afghanistan. Thousands of Americans, including Americans, are fleeing Afghanistan as the U.S. forces withdraws.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader, stated that “we should not be doing anything else on the floor until every single American has home.”
Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Leader, said Tuesday on Fox News that his support was for moderate House members.
McConnell stated, “I wish moderates success in the House.” “I’m pulling with them.”