Pelosi leaves room to delay infrastructure vote


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday said the stonewalling by Senate centrists has "completely" disrupted the Democrats' timeline for moving President Biden's domestic agenda, leaving open the possibility that the House will punt once again on an infrastructure vote scheduled for Thursday.

Pelosi said she still intends to stage the infrastructure vote on Thursday but acknowledged her power as Speaker to delay it, if need be.

"We take it one step at a time," Pelosi told reporters after huddling with members of her caucus in the basement of the Capitol, referring to Thursday's vote.

She also repeated her intention to not bring legislation to the floor that does not have the votes for passage. Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus say half the group is prepared to vote against the infrastructure bill unless the larger social spending bill moves in tandem.

Pelosi noted that while the House Budget Committee has already approved a blueprint for the larger social spending bill — the second piece of Biden's legislative wish list — the Senate moderates balking at the $3.5 trillion price tag have stalled progress on the broader two-pronged agenda.

"In the meantime, there was this 'Oh my god, we can't go to that number,'" Pelosi said, invoking the Senate holdouts. "Well that completely sets off the timetable."

Delaying that vote would be sure to infuriate the moderate Democrats who are fighting for immediate approval of the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill — and won a promise from Pelosi to do it this week.

"We're voting Thursday," Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said Tuesday.

An initial Monday vote on infrastructure was already kicked to Thursday when it became clear that there was no House-Senate agreement on the larger social benefits bill, which liberals are demanding before they'll support the infrastructure proposal. Without those assurances, it appears the liberals have the numbers to kill it.

Pelosi said Wednesday that she won't move one bill without the other.

"We're doing it simultaneously," she said.

And upping the stakes in the ongoing debate, she declared that a simple promise from the Senate centrists to support the larger social spending package won't be enough to spur the House to act. Instead, she wants legislative text to be drafted on that broader piece of Biden's agenda.

"We come to a place where we have agreement in legislative language — not just principle, in legislative language — that the president supports," she said. "It has to be his standard."

The prolonged impasse arrives at a delicate political moment when Biden's approval numbers are falling and Democrats are also scrambling to prevent a government shutdown this week and a Treasury default next month, all in the face of entrenched GOP opposition.

Biden is racing to break the logjam, meeting Tuesday with the two centrist holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), in an escalating effort to win their support.

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