A House vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill was called off Thursday by Speaker Nancy Pelosi as feuding Democrats could not unite.
The $1 trillion package already has passed the Senate with bipartisan support, and even has the support of a majority of House members. However, passage of the bill is being held up by a $3.5 trillion spending package that progressives want and moderates oppose.
Progressives have said that if the Senate does not pass what they want, they will not support the infrastructure bill, thus causing a major piece of President Joe Biden’s agenda to crash and burn.
Progressives were demanding any vote be delayed until they could get their way, according to The Washington Post.
They underlined that stance on Thursday by refusing to support the infrastructure bill in the vote, which had been scheduled for that night. The vote instead was rescheduled for Friday.
“Nobody should be surprised that we are where we are, because we’ve been telling you that for 3 1/2 months,” said Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, according to The New York Times.
During a call with progressive legislators, Jayapal said her terms for infrastructure bill passage include Senate passage of the full $3.5 trillion package progressives want, according to Politico.
Politico reported that multiple progressives on the call vowed to oppose the infrastructure bill unless the $3.5 trillion bill was passed by the Senate.
That plan foundered on the opposition of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Democrats need those two on board because the procedural move they are relying upon to ram the proposal through the Senate only works when all 50 Democrats are in lockstep.
Manchin said his upper spending limit is $1.5 trillion.
“I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form,” he said, according to the Post. “I don’t fault any of them who believe that they’re much more progressive and much more liberal. God bless ’em. … For them to get theirs — elect more liberals.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was irate at the idea.
“It would mean decimating vital, important programs for working families,” he said. “Obviously we could not do for the children what has to be done, we cannot do for seniors what has to be done. We would not be able to do paid family and medical leave.
“The planet is at stake. We got four or five years before there is irreparable harm, and clearly $1.5 trillion would make it absolutely impossible for us to do what has to be done.”
Negotiations to resolve the differences took place Thursday night until it was clear no agreement was imminent.
The move was a defeat for Pelosi, who earlier in the day had expressed confidence.
“I’m only envisioning taking it up and winning it,” she said at a news conference.
Giving progressives what they wanted through a delay instead of a vote irked some Democrats.
“Leadership made a very clear promise to people that this bill was going to be put on the floor for a vote,” said Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York, according to The Washington Post. “And if they go back on that, that’s a breach of trust I don’t know if this caucus is going to be able to recover from.”
Some said holding the infrastructure bill hostage was putting politics ahead of government again.
“When Iowans tell me they are sick of Washington games, this is what they mean,” Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa said, according to The New York Times.
“Instead of moving forward with one piece of the comprehensive agenda that we’ve been crafting over the past six months, some in my party are insisting that we wait to put shovels in the ground and pass the largest investment in rural broadband in U.S. history until every piece of our agenda is ready,” she said.
“All-at-once or nothing is no way to govern.”
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