Nine moderate House Democrats are threatening to withhold support from a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint until a bipartisan infrastructure package is signed into law, threatening to unravel plans for moving President Joe Biden’s agenda through Congress.
“It’s time to get shovels in the ground and people to work,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dated Thursday. “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’ stance risks undermining Pelosi’s strategy, which would bring the budget resolution to a vote in the House the week of Aug. 23. Pelosi’s slim margin of control means she can only afford to lose three members of her caucus in a vote on the budget measure, which passed the Senate on a party-line vote this week and isn’t expected to garner any Republican support in the House.
Representatives Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, Filemon Vela of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Ed Case of Hawaii, Jim Costa of California and Kurt Schrader of Oregon signed the letter, first reported by Punchbowl News.
The letter puts Pelosi and Biden in the middle of a tug-of-war between moderate and progressive House Democrats.
For now, the $550 billion infrastructure package is on hold. In a bow to demands from House progressives, Pelosi has vowed to wait until the Senate finishes the budget package to assure it addresses priorities on social programs and climate change.
Pelosi told House Democrats during a conference call this week that her strategy reflects the consensus of the caucus, according to a senior Democratic aide, who asked for anonymity to discuss the private conversation. The aide said that despite the threat from the moderates, there aren’t enough votes now to pass the infrastructure package by itself given the stance of the progressives.
Taken together, the infrastructure package and the policies outlined in the budget framework form the crux of Biden’s economic agenda.
The framework opens the way for passage of the eventual legislation implementing much of that agenda in the 50-50 Senate without Republican support. House Democratic aides representing committees that would be involved in drawing up the bill will meet Friday at the White House with Legislative Affairs Director Louisa Terrell and other senior administration officials, according to a White House official.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement the Biden administration is working closely with Pelosi and others in leadership to ensure House passage of both the infrastructure bill and the budget resolution.
“Just as Senate Democrats came together to advance both key elements of the President’s economic agenda – the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Budget Resolution that is the framework for our Build Back Better plan – we are confident that House Democrats will do the same,” Psaki said.
The moderates’ letter follows a statement Tuesday from leaders of the House Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats, calling for Pelosi to swiftly bring the infrastructure bill to a vote.
The Blue Dog co-chairs said they “remain opposed to any effort to unnecessarily delay consideration of these critical infrastructure investments, which will create good-paying jobs, keep American businesses competitive, and grow our nation’s economy.”
Progressives, though, have been adamant. Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said recently that the infrastructure bill doesn’t have a path to House passage “unless it has a reconciliation package, with our priorities, alongside it.”