WASHINGTON — House Democrats regrouped Tuesday after delaying a vote to advance President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill and multitrillion-dollar social safety net expansion, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi struggled to tame a rebellion from centrist lawmakers.
At a caucus meeting Tuesday, Pelosi told Democrats she was optimistic a deal was close as she eyed an afternoon vote that would include concessions to appease the moderates.
“I’m sorry that we couldn’t land the plane last night, and that you all had to wait. But that’s just part of the legislative progress,” she said, according to a Democratic aide. “I think we’re close to landing the plane.”
The stakes are high for Biden’s top two legislative priorities.
The president and his staff have called a variety of House members, including centrist holdouts, to advocate for Pelosi’s plan and stressed that both the infrastructure and budget bills are critical to his agenda, a White House official said.
The House Rules Committee met again Tuesday morning with the aim of setting up votes on the budget resolution that will allow them to begin work on the $3.5 trillion package, as well as tee up votes on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The procedural vote to kick off the process was initially expected Monday night, but Pelosi faced defections from a group of nine moderates who threatened to vote it down. The lawmakers are insisting that the $550 billion infrastructure bill get an immediate vote and be signed into law before they start crafting the larger bill.
Democratic leaders plan to promise that the House will vote on infrastructure bill by Sept. 27, said a leadership aide, who added that this meets the request made by moderates of an assured date for the vote.
Democratic leaders expect the House will vote on the procedural rule Tuesday afternoon after it is approved in committee.
“These negotiations are never easy,” House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern said. “I think it was Hillary Clinton who says it takes a village. I say it takes a therapist. But the therapy session is over.”
Pelosi has said for months that the two bills must move side by side. Dozens of progressives say they won’t support the infrastructure bill without the bigger spending bill, while moderates are most interested in passing the infrastructure package into law.
At the heart of the standoff is a bid for leverage over the multitrillion-dollar bill. Progressives want to pass a sweeping expansion of the safety net, paid for with tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy. Centrist Democrats are leery of the $3.5 trillion price tag and more skeptical of some taxes.