WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats on Tuesday pushed a fragile message of party unity in hopes of passing both a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure agreement and a $3.5 trillion spending bill – both part of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
“It’s a big week for the American people,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., during a news conference Tuesday morning after a House Democratic Caucus meeting. “It’s a big week for House and Senate Democrats. We’re not running away from that.”
The House vote is set for Thursday on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, which would fund projects to improve highways and provide high-speed internet to all Americans.
“Our caucus is strongest when it’s unified,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., as she was leaving Tuesday’s caucus meeting.
She is among a group of House Progressives who say they’ll vote “no” to the infrastructure bill on Thursday if the spending bill, which contains funding for progressive measures, doesn’t have enough votes to be passed in the Senate.
Progressives believed they had Pelosi’s agreement that the two bills could only be passed in tandem. By setting the vote for Thursday, Pelosi has unlinked the two bills.
The Progressives’ commitment to the spending bill was re-upped Tuesday by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., in a statement by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
According to the statement, progressives are ready to vote for both bills, but “a majority” of the 96-member Progressive Caucus “will only vote for the infrastructure bill after the president’s visionary Build Back Better Act passes,” said Jayapal.
The bills “are two parts of a whole, and they must be passed together,” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who’s been a strong Progressive voice. “Any other way goes against everything the President and Congressional Democrats promised.”
While the infrastructure bill has support from both parties, passing 69 to 30 in the Senate, the much larger spending bill – called a reconciliation bill in parliamentary language – has run into significant GOP opposition. But some Senate Democrats are confident their coalition can push the bill through.
“All members of the caucus feel a sense of urgency,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Members of Congress are being moved to action by what they’re hearing from their constituents, such as calls to lower the cost of prescription drugs and expand health care coverage, measures included in Biden’s reconciliation bill, said Wyden. “Failure here is not an acceptable alternative,” he said.
Pelosi was clear in her determination to pass the measures at all of her appearances Tuesday.
“I wish this could be bipartisan,” she said. “We will achieve what we need to do because it’s absolutely necessary.”