WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats on Monday that passage of the $550 billion infrastructure bill must not wait for President Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar bill, saying that the larger package is not yet ready for a vote.
In a private caucus meeting, Pelosi, D-Calif., said the party must "make difficult choices" as the dynamics have changed and Democrats have not yet agreed to a spending level, according to a source familiar with the meeting.© Provided by NBC News Image: House Speaker Pelosi Holds Weekly News Conference (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg via Getty Images file)
"I told all of you that we wouldn’t go on to the [infrastructure bill until] we had the reconciliation bill passed by the Senate. We were right on schedule to do all of that, until 10 days ago, a week ago, when I heard the news that this number had to come down," Pelosi said, according to the source. "It all changed, so our approach had to change."
"We had to accommodate the changes that were being necessitated. And we cannot be ready to say until the Senate passed the bill, we can’t do BIF," she said, using a shorthand for Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, the source said.
The remarks represent a significant reversal for Pelosi after she vowed in June that the House "ain't" going to vote on the infrastructure bill until the mega-bill has passed the Senate.
It indicates that the vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill is likely to happen in the House on Thursday, whether there's a deal on the separate bill by then, which progressives have demanded in order to win their votes for it.
But it is not clear that the infrastructure bill can pass the House, even if Pelosi calls the vote.
Progressive House Democrats have threatened to vote down the infrastructure bill if the vote is held Thursday before the mega-bill is completed, fearing that centrist Democrats would seek to shrink or kill the larger bill if the bipartisan infrastructure measure passes.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., stuck by that position Monday evening after the caucus meeting, saying that House progressives are prepared to vote down the infrastructure bill Thursday.
"We need the reconciliation bill, and so this is a situation where the vast, vast, vast majority of Democrats want to get the president's agenda done," she said on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. "It can't be a pinky promise, right, Rachel, it's got to be an actual bill that is written, the legislative text is written, the numbers are agreed to, everything is agreed to."
In her remarks to Democratic lawmakers, Pelosi said the House and Senate would need to agree on the bigger bill before holding a vote. That is a tall order as party leaders have yet to resolve a host of differences among Democrats, who have wafer-thin majorities in the House and Senate, on policy and the price tag. They have no realistic hope of winning Republican support for the package.
Despite her progressive roots, Pelosi has a history of protecting centrist members, who tend to represent swing districts and therefore decide whether Democrats hold the House majority. Her new position comes as centrists clamor for a vote on the infrastructure bill, eager to go home and campaign on a significant bipartisan achievement.
The battle over the $3.5 trillion price tag centers around Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., two centrist Democrats who have insisted that it be reduced. But they have not named their price, which has dragged out the negotiations.
Manchin, asked repeatedly by NBC News on Monday, declined to say whether he'd be comfortable with a $2 trillion spending level. He called for means testing and adding work requirements to benefit programs, as well as reducing qualifying income thresholds.
Manchin also indicated that he would not be moved to support a bigger reconciliation bill if House progressives voted down the infrastructure bill this week. He said he believes it would pass eventually, if not this week.
"I'll guarantee you this. The infrastructure bill will pass before November 2022, before the election," he said. "I’ll guarantee that bill will be passed before November 2022."
For Democratic leaders, it sets up a towering challenge to achieve a deal on the mega-bill by Thursday, which would unlock progressive votes to pass the infrastructure bill.
Biden spoke with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday. The White House said that the three leaders "agreed on the need to continue work on advancing the two pieces of legislation that represent the President’s vision."
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/pelosi-says-bidens-infrastructure-bill-cannot-wait-for-social-safety-net-bill/ar-AAOTs8y1011