Nine moderate Democrats threaten budget and infrastructure deals

A group of nine moderate Democrats told Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday they won’t vote for the $3.5 trillion budget package until the House passes the bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate.

The threat is enough to sink the budget deal, which contains a long list of social policy items demanded by progressives.

But, in the other corner of the party are the liberals, who’ve told Pelosi they won’t vote for the infrastructure deal until the Senate passes the budget package.

Friday’s announcement puts Pelosi in a rock and hard place between the two wings of her party. 

It also threatens to derail both pieces of legislation, which are central to President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and top talking points for Democrats headed into the 2022 midterm election.

The competing demands between the moderates and liberals essentially has Pelosi in a stalemate and threatens an early deal she made with progressives, who vastly outnumber the moderates. 

Given the Democrats’ small majority in the House, she can only afford to lose three votes on any piece of legislation. Both moderates and liberals have enough votes to sink either piece – and both have threatened to do so.

A threat from House moderates put Speaker Nancy Pelosi between a rock and a hard place between the liberal and moderate wings of Democratic Party

Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York

Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey (left) is leading the effort by moderates, which is threatening to derail Pelosi’s deal with liberals like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York

‘With the livelihoods of hardworking American families at stake, we simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this one-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package,’ the nine lawmakers, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, wrote to Pelosi. ‘It’s time to get shovels in the ground and people to work.’ 

Nine Moderate Dems

The nine moderate Democrats who wrote to Speaker Pelosi to say they won’t vote for budget deal unless House passes infrastructure first:

Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas

Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas

Rep. Jared Golden of Maine

Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii

Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon

Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas

Rep. Jim Costa of California

Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia

‘We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law,’ the moderates wrote in their letter, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The Senate passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill – which funds traditional projects like roads and bridges – on Tuesday with 69 votes, including 19 Republicans. 

The Senate then approved on Wednesday the $3.5 trillion budget resolution with only Democratic votes.  If the House passes the resolution, it will allow Democrats in both chambers to pass a massive social policy program – including free pre-school, expanded paid family and medical leave, and environmental programs – this fall without fear of a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Pelosi, to appease liberals in the House, said she would not bring the infrastructure bill up for a vote until the Senate passed the social policy bill.

But, with the Senate out for the summer, that may not happen into the fall, particularly as Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer needs to get his own moderate Democrats – particularly Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – on board. Both Manchin and Sinema have raised concerns about the $3.5 trillion cost. 

Friday’s threat from moderates, however, endangers the two-track plan of passage that President Biden and congressional Democratic leaders saw as their way to ensure they get both pieces of legislation signed into law.

The letter is also signed by Democratic Reps. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Filemon Vela of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Ed Case of Hawaii, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jim Costa of California and Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia. 

The House is scheduled to return the week of August 23 to vote on the budget resolution.

Pelosi and Schumer have told their committee chairs in their respective chambers to draft the social policy package – also known as reconciliation legislation – by September 15. 

The goal of leadership is to have both bills passed by late September or early October. But if the House can’t pass the budget resolution, those plans could collapse. 

Pelosi told Democrats on Wednesday she will not bring bipartisan infrastructure bill for a vote in the House until the Senate passed the other measure.

‘I am not freelancing. This is the consensus,’ she said on a call with House Democrats, according to The Hill newspaper.

‘The president has said he’s all for the bipartisan approach … bravo! That’s progress, but it ain’t the whole vision,’ Pelosi said on the call. ‘The votes in the House and Senate depend on us having both bills.’ 

The speaker was under heavy pressure from the liberal wing of her party. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, informed Pelosi in a letter on Tuesday that she had taken a poll of their liberal members, who said they would not support the infrastructure bill without the budget reconciliation package.

‘A majority of respondents affirmed that they would withhold their votes in support of the bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives until the Senate adopted a robust reconciliation package,’ Jayapal wrote. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow members of ‘The Squad’ are part of that group. 

The Democrat from New York has been clear she will not support one piece of legislation without the other.

‘If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House and if the Senate does not pass a reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in,’ Ocasio-Cortez said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ She added that the contents of the bipartisan bill ‘are not all, you know, Candyland. There are some of these political pay-fors that are very alarming.’ 

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