President Biden’s trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure plan suffered a significant setback late Thursday night when House Democratic leaders, short of support amid a liberal revolt, put off a planned vote on a crucial piece of their domestic agenda.
Democratic leaders and supporters of the bill insisted the postponement was only a temporary setback. The infrastructure vote was rescheduled for Friday, giving them more time to reach agreement on an expansive climate change and social safety net bill that would bring liberals along.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement: “A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever. But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing.”
But a deal among Democrats appeared far off. The late-night delay came after the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, had spend the day insisting she would get the bill to the House floor on Thursday.
The postponement was a humiliating blow to Mr. Biden and Democrats, who had spent days toiling to broker a deal between their party’s feuding factions and corral the votes needed to pass the infrastructure bill. Mr. Biden has staked his reputation as a deal-maker on the success of both the public works package and a far more ambitious social policy bill, whose fates are now uncertain in a Congress buffeted by partisan divides and internal Democratic strife.
Given the distance between the Democrats’ left flank and a few centrists on that larger bill, it was not clear when or even whether either would have the votes — and whether Mr. Biden’s economic agenda could be revived.
The House and Senate did pass legislation on Thursday to fund the government until Dec. 3, with more than $28 billion in disaster relief and $6.3 billion to help relocate refugees from Afghanistan. Mr. Biden quickly signed it, averting the immediate fiscal threat of a government shutdown and clearing away one item on the Democrats’ must-do list, at least for two months.
But that small accomplishment was overwhelmed by the acrimony on display within the president’s party.
The infrastructure measure, which would provide $550 billion in new funding, was supposed to burnish Mr. Biden’s bipartisan bona fides. It would devote $65 billion to expand high-speed internet access; $110 billion for roads, bridges and other projects; $25 billion for airports; and the most funding for Amtrak since the passenger rail service was founded in 1971. It would also begin the shift toward electric vehicles with new charging stations and fortifications of the electricity grid that will be necessary to power those cars.
But progressive leaders had said for weeks that they would oppose the measure until they saw action on the legislation they really wanted — a far-reaching bill that funded paid family leave, universal prekindergarten, Medicare expansion and strong measures to combat climate change.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top members of Mr. Biden’s team worked feverishly into the night to strike a deal that could allow for passage of the infrastructure measure, which passed the Senate in August with great fanfare. But amid cajoling, pleading and arm-twisting, the House’s most liberal members would not budge, while Republicans stayed largely in lock step behind their leaders’ efforts to kill the bill.
“Nobody should be surprised that we are where we are, because we’ve been telling you that for three and a half months,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.