by Alan Fram | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Top Democrats abruptly postponed an expected House vote on Friday on their 10-year, $1.85 trillion social and environmental measure, as leaders’ long struggle to balance demands from progressives and moderates once again forced the president. A pillar of Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
To hand them a needed victory, leaders still prepared to try to push a $1 trillion package through the chamber and with road and other infrastructure projects on their tables.
But the fate of that popular bill was also in doubt. Progressives threatened to vote against it, continuing their demand that the two measures be voted together to favor a larger, more comprehensive social measure on moderates. It looked like Democrats might delay the infrastructure vote to avoid an embarrassing defeat.
The scramble’s plans took a toll on a party that has spent weeks trying to find a middle ground on its massive package of health, education, family and climate change initiatives. It has been tough, partly because the low majority of Democrats means they need the support of every Senate Democrat and there cannot be more than three defectors in the House.
Democratic leaders expected the House to approve both measures on Friday, producing twin victories for a president and party eager to rebound from this week’s humiliating off-year elections and show they can govern. .
But those plans were dashed when, after hours of negotiation, half a dozen moderates insisted they would vote against the massive social and climate bill, unless the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office called for a first measure. Did not provide your cost estimate.
Democratic leaders have said it would take days or longer. With Friday’s delay and lawmakers planning to leave the city for a week’s break, it could mean that budget estimates will be ready by the time of voting.
“To make progress on the president’s vision, it is critical that we move forward today with the bipartisan infrastructure framework and the Build Back Better Act,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, told her aides using the names of the White House. Wrote. for two measures. “The agenda we are pursuing is transformative and historic, therefore challenging,” he said.
The infrastructure measure easily cleared the Senate in August with bipartisan support, including the backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. This package will provide large sums of money to each state for highways, rail, mass transport, broadband, airports, drinking and waste water, electricity grids, ports and other projects.
But the bill became a pawn in the Democrats’ long struggle for leverage between progressives and moderates. Progressives said they would support the infrastructure law only if both measures were voted on simultaneously.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who leads the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, revived that timing link Friday, saying that the White House and Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation had done all they needed for the comprehensive bill. Fiscal information was provided to the MPs. .
“If six of our colleagues still want to wait for CBO scores, we will agree to give them that time – after which we can vote on both bills together,” she wrote. It strongly suggested that at least some progressives vote against the infrastructure bill on Friday.
It would sink the infrastructure measure unless there was enough Republican support so that it would be passed anyway, which seemed impossible. It could mean that Pelosi, who has long refused to vote on either bill until she knows the Democrats will win, will choose that path again and both bills are ready to go. will decide against allowing an infrastructure vote until
Earlier on Friday, Biden met with reporters to deliver a strong monthly jobs report, saying he was returning to the Oval Office to “make some calls” to lawmakers. He said he would ask them to “vote yes on both these bills right now”.
Democrats are eager to make gains quickly after a gubernatorial election defeat in Virginia and disappointing contests elsewhere.
A House pass of Biden’s big measure will send it to the Senate, where it will face some changes and more Democratic drama. This is mainly due to demands by censors Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona to control the cost of the measurement and to halt or abandon some of its initiatives.
But House’s approval of the small, bipartisan infrastructure measure would send it straight to the White House, where Biden would be sure to take a victory lap. The bill is expected to create mountains of jobs.
Pelosi met with Latino lawmakers late Thursday who wanted the US to take as big a measure as possible to help immigrants, though their prospects for strict action are limited by strict Senate rules. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D.N.Y. said on Friday that they discussed moving forward on the issue in other bills and considered Pelosi an ally.
Pelosi’s strategy focused on passing the strongest social and climate bill possible in her chamber and then leaving it to the Senate to accommodate or isolate the parts whose members would not agree. Making late changes to the bill to reduce votes, the House Rules Committee approved amendments to state and local tax cuts and other issues.
Half the size of Biden’s initial $3.5 trillion package, the bill is more than 2,100 pages and has the backing of progressive lawmakers, albeit smaller than they expected.
Republicans oppose this measure as being too costly and harmful to the economy.
The package will provide assistance to a large number of Americans with access to health care, raising children, and caring for the elderly at home. The cost of drugs would be lower because Medicare would for the first time be able to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices for certain drugs, which had long been a democratic priority.
The package would provide some $555 billion in tax breaks encouraging clean energy and electric vehicles. Democrats added key provisions in recent days, including a new paid family leave program and reinstating work permits for immigrants.
Most of the cost of the package would be covered with higher taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations.
Munchkins has banned the new family vacation program, which is expected to provide four weeks of paid time off, less than the 12 weeks once envisioned.
Senators are also likely to scrap a recently added immigration provision that would allow 7 million immigrants in the country without legal status to apply for two five-year work permits.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freaking, Aamer Madhani, Marie Claire Jalonik and Brian Slodisko contributed to this report.