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Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t swayed after a group of centrist Democrats demanded the House take up a Senate-passed infrastructure measure when they return later this month to consider a much broader social spending bill.
The group of nine Democrats wrote to the California Democrat to warn her she won’t get their votes on a $3.5 trillion budget resolution unless the House also takes up a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Both measures passed the Senate this week.
“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 Democrats wrote to Pelosi.
Signers include key centrists in the Democratic Caucus, including Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chairman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia.
The threat would appear to sink the chances Democrats can pass the budget resolution this month because the party controls only a very slim majority and can afford to lose no more than three votes.
But Pelosi isn’t bending.
Her office is signaling to centrists that they are vastly outnumbered by the liberal wing, who make up the majority of the Democratic Caucus and who oppose voting on the infrastructure package right away.
“There are not sufficient votes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill this month,” a top Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner, estimating “dozens upon dozens” of Democrats would vote against the bill if it came up for consideration in August.
Liberal Democrats aren’t thrilled with the bipartisan bill, which was negotiated by a group of Democratic and Republican senators and President Joe Biden. They also want to up the spending in the $3.5 trillion budget framework.
The infrastructure measure pays for projects related to roads, bridges, and waterways and funds expanding broadband. It provides historic funding for mass transit and rail and includes some money aimed at eliminating the use of fossil fuels, including $7.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations.
Liberals say the infrastructure bill falls short on climate change policy and funding, and they are unhappy it is decoupled from the massive social spending programs that would be paid for in the $3.5 trillion packages.
Pelosi has promised not to bring up the infrastructure bill until the social spending legislation has been written and passed later this year.
“The votes in the House and Senate depend on us having both bills,” Pelosi told Democrats in a conference call last week.
Pelosi will have to convince reluctant centrists to back the budget resolution when the House reconvenes the week of Aug. 23.
The measure includes a key tax cut provision Gottheimer and others have been seeking: A repeal of the Trump-era cap on state and local property taxes that have hit blue states the hardest.
Gottheimer has expressed concern that the cost of the $3.5 trillion spending proposal is too high and would pile on to the nation’s deficit.
“I am concerned about the size and scope of the package, and I think we have to be cautious about that,” Gottheimer said on MSNBC. “We need to see what’s in it. The specifics.”
Gottheimer said lawmakers must ensure the spending bill is targeted and “to make sure taxes don’t go up.”
At least half the bill is paid for in part with a tax hike on corporations and the wealthy. The rest would add to the deficit, early estimates indicate.
Pelosi is likely to get some help from Biden in convincing centrists to agree to pass the $3.5 trillion spending framework.
Gottheimer said centrists have received “a lot of engagement from the White House” on the big spending bill.
It will take weeks for lawmakers to draft the spending language.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, set a Sept. 15 deadline for legislative language, which means lawmakers and staff will work over the August recess to draft the bill.
Schumer faces pushback from his own centrist wing.
Both Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona signaled $3.5 trillion is too high.
“I have serious concerns about the grave consequences facing West Virginians and every American family if Congress decides to spend another $3.5 trillion,” Manchin said in a statement.
But liberals outnumber centrists in both the House and Senate.
House liberals have repeatedly warned they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill until the $3.5 trillion measure passes the Senate in the form of legislation, not just the spending framework.
The House Progressive Caucus, which is the largest voting faction in the Democratic caucus, has outlined five funding priorities. Many of them are included in the $3.5 trillion frameworks but perhaps at lower levels than the group envisions. The group hopes to pump more money into the measure, even as moderates appear poised to try to reduce it.
“We have been very clear that we are not voting for a bipartisan bill until we see the details, and until it is paired with a reconciliation bill, that includes all of our five priorities at the funding levels that we deem appropriate,” House Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, told the Washington Examiner.