House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, struggling to unite progressive Democrats and their more moderate colleagues on a pair of intertwined spending bills, snapped at reporters Wednesday grilling her about a meeting on how to pass that legislation, leaving open the possibility of delaying Thursday’s scheduled House vote on an infrastructure bill.
Pelosi was at the Capitol following a meeting with Democrats to discuss the passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a more expansive $3.5 trillion bill that would need to be passed using only Democratic votes, The Hill reported.
Pelosi snaps at a reporter questioning her strategy on the debt ceiling: “What are you talking about?!” pic.twitter.com/1vsgvDkGjS
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 29, 2021
House progressives are demanding the Senate vote on the larger bill first, or they will not support the smaller bill that passed with bipartisan support in the Senate, while more moderate members are balking unless the infrastructure package is passed first and the cost of the social spending bill is slashed.
“We take it one step at a time,” Pelosi told reporters in tacitly acknowledging the possibility of a delayed vote. She added that moderate Democrats in the upper chamber had “completely” thrown off plans for passing the legislation in a timely manner.
The day before, Pelosi downplayed the threat to her plans, saying leaders are “making good progress,” according to The Hill.
“Everybody has to do what they have to do, and I respect that,” she said. “We’re doing our work.”
In order to pass the broader social spending bill under the budgetary reconciliation process, all 50 Democrats — and potentially Vice President Kamala Harris — in the Senate would have to vote for it, given there is no Republican support for the massive bill.
The bill’s fate is largely in the hands of two moderate Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — who have said it is too large and must be trimmed to win their support.
Further complicating matters is the approaching mid-October deadline to raise the national debt ceiling in order to avert a government shutdown.
“It looks like the debt limit extension might not advance in the Senate,” a reporter told Pelosi during Wednesday’s gaggle at the Capitol, asking, “Why get mad at members, why twist the arms of moderates if this is not going to move anywhere?”
A bemused Pelosi replied, “What are you talking about?
“We have a responsibility to uphold, to lift up the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” Pelosi said. “That’s what we have to do. These members have all voted for this last week. So if they’re concerned about how it might be in an ad, it’s already in an ad. It’s already in an ad.”
“So let us give every confidence every step of the way that we will do that. We cannot predicate our actions in the House on what could happen in the Senate. We can when we’re coming to agreement on a bill. But in terms of this, I have no patience for people not voting for that.”
Caught in the middle of a factional fight, Pelosi has struggled to placate her party’s progressives and moderates while trying to shepherd both bills through the complex legislative process.
“This week, we must pass a Continuing Resolution, Build Back Better Act and the [Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework],” Pelosi said in a “dear colleague” letter on Saturday.
“September 30th is a date fraught with meaning,” she wrote, a reference to the end of the fiscal year, after which the federal government is scheduled to run out of money if lawmakers fail to pass a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown.
That date also marks the expiration of surface transportation programs.
“The next few days will be a time of intensity,” Pelosi wrote. “We must pass the BIF to avoid the expiration of the surface transportation funding on September 30. And we must stay on schedule to pass the reconciliation bill so that we can Build Back Better.”
The ambitious $3.5 trillion bill encompasses much of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, including measures to combat climate change, reduce income inequality, improve public health and boost education.