Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing firm on her demand that the Senate pass the House’s reconciliation bill before the lower chamber will consider the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, a top Democratic lawmaker said.
Speaking to reporters after the House Democratic Caucus’ Tuesday night meeting, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said Pelosi (D-Calif.) remained committed to passing the second infrastructure measure focused on Democrats’ broad policy priorities.
“What the Speaker has said, and I totally agree with her, is that we’re not going to vote on one until the Senate sends us both. That’s not changed,” the Kentucky lawmaker said.
Yarmuth, who has been taking meetings with progressives and moderates as part of a larger effort to contain dissent against the final bill, added that, “The details matter. And we don’t have those yet.
“It’s just safer not to talk about top line numbers.”
Biden split his two-part “Build Back Better” proposal, a centerpiece of his post-COVID campaign message, into two packages for Congress to pass.
The first, the “American Jobs Plan,” focused on infrastructure, while the second, the “American Families Plan,” is aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.
Republicans took issue with the second package, which they argued stretched the definition of infrastructure.
Last Thursday, Biden announced a deal on hard infrastructure spending, made with a bipartisan group led by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
The agreement would spend $1.2 trillion over eight years, a little more than half of the Democrats’ $2.3 trillion proposal.
“I clearly didn’t get all I wanted. They gave more than I think maybe they were inclined to give in the first place,” the commander-in-chief said on the White House driveway when announcing the deal.
At an unrelated press conference shortly after the announcement, Pelosi threw cold water on the notion that the House of Representatives would take up the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal if the Senate did not take up the “Families Plan” legislation.
“Let me be really clear on this,” she began, “We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill. If there is no bipartisan bill, then we’ll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill.
Budget reconciliation allows the majority party to bypass the legislative filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote. Still, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.
Later that same day, Biden appeared to put the deal in jeopardy by issuing what sounded like a veto threat on the compromise if Congress did not also pass the reconciliation bill.
In crisis mode, the White House made private overtures on Saturday to the GOP senators who felt misled by his comments, before releasing a statement officially walking it back.
“That statement understandably upset some Republicans, who do not see the two plans as linked; they are hoping to defeat my Families Plan—and do not want their support for the infrastructure plan to be seen as aiding passage of the Families Plan,” the president said.
“My comments,” he continued, “created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent.”
Those statements, however, did not allay the fears of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told reporters that he would need to hear assurances from Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that the bipartisan and reconciliation bills would be kept separate.
“Unless Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi walk back their threats, then President Biden’s walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture,” he explained.
“I appreciate the president saying that he’s willing to deal with infrastructure separately,” he said of Biden’s walk back, “But he doesn’t control the Congress. The speaker and the majority leader of the Senate will determine the order.”