Pelosi sets up House vote to deem $3.5T budget approved


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team are pressing forward with a risky strategy to move forward on key parts of President Biden’s domestic agenda while refusing to bend to demands from a handful of centrists.

The plan would see the House vote on a rule Monday night that would deem a $3.5 trillion budget as adopted while setting up a process for considering a bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate at an unspecified time. 

The strategy is risky because 10 centrist Democrats have said they will not back the $3.5 billion budget without voting first on the infrastructure bill. It is not clear these Democrats will vote for the rule deeming the budget as being adopted. 

Pelosi can afford only three defections if all Republicans vote against the rule as expected.

If the rule fails, it would be an embarrassing setback for Democrats that would highlight their divisions. 

Pelosi has sided with liberals in the House, who make up a large majority of her caucus, in demanding that the lower chamber approve the budget before taking action on the infrastructure bill. 

Pelosi rarely brings anything to the floor that does not have enough votes to pass, and fellow Democrats on Monday were wondering whether she can somehow find the votes to move the rule forward. 

Members of Pelosi’s leadership team sounded uncertain if the plan would actually work.

When asked if Democrats have enough votes to adopt the rule, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) replied, “I have no idea.” 

Shortly after top Democrats announced their new plan, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), the leader of the group of centrists demanding an immediate vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, huddled with leadership off the House floor for more than an hour. But the meeting did not produce an immediate resolution to the standoff, with Democratic leaders still cagey about the next steps.

When asked if leadership had the votes to adopt the rule, Pelosi replied, “When we bring the bill to the floor, we will.”

One moderate Democrat predicted that the latest strategy wouldn’t fly. “The rule is going down,” the lawmaker said. 

Progressives, meanwhile, expressed frustration with the centrists who began demanding a swift vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill only earlier this month even though Pelosi has said for months that the House wouldn’t vote on it until the larger $3.5 trillion spending plan to expand the social safety net is done.

“The idea of just kind of throwing a bomb at the eleventh hour, it just doesn't seem responsible to the people of this country who expect a legislature that works for them,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

Members of Pelosi’s leadership team framed the vote on the rule as a test of the party unity needed to accomplish Biden’s agenda.

“The rule is about being in the majority. There’s a long way to go on legislative issues that are going to play out over the next month. But for the moment the argument is over shall the House proceed,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.). 

The White House also has been working overtime to try to put Democrats on a path to victory.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as well as top White House aides Louisa Terrell, Shuwanza Goff, Brian Deese and Shalanda Young have held calls with members of the Moderate Nine, urging them to back the rule on Monday and hearing their concerns, said a source familiar with the calls.

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